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Great story of a lost boy and strong girl who are both struggling to make it in this world, and strive to save a piece of wasteland from becoming another forgotten space. As the plants grow, so does their friendship, which they both discover is the most precious thing of all
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 February 2021
A novel for younger readers. I would say best reading age is eleven and up, since it's about characters of around that age dealing with the kinds of things that children of that age have to face in real life.
It runs for three hundred and eight pages. It has seventy eight chapters. Thus all of them are very short, usually no more than three to four pages. And the size of the print also is good sized, making this an easy read.
It's the story of a boy called Ware. Who lives very much in his own world, much to the frustration of his parents. Who are busy with work and parent stuff. Thus communication could be better. Ware has to go to Rec for the summer, but in doing so finds an abandoned churchyard, where a girl called Jolene is planting a garden.
For two young loners, it's a great refuge and it becomes the centre of their lives. But when it comes under threat, Ware is determined to save it. Knights in the stories he reads can manage heroic things like that. But can you do it in the real world?
This is a real world set novel. Although you might wonder if it could veer off into fantasy from reading the blurb, it does stay very much in reality all the time.
Ware is the viewpoint character throughout. Written very convincingly as someone of his age.
This book grew on me greatly as it went along. From an adult perspective, I thought from the off Ware was being naive and on course to learn life lessons about how things aren't fair. But soon enough, I found I would be a bit sorry for him should that be the case.
And steadily, my sympathy for the character just grew and grew. As he becomes someone who tries. Jolene has been worn down by life and has a more cynical and jaded outlook, not expecting miracles as a result. But Ware tries. This is one of the many things the book becomes about. The fact that if you want to get something, you have to keep trying.
It's also about both of them learning many life lessons along the way. And superbly, the adults of the story get to do the same as well. They are spot on in characterisation, being realistic in how they act and what they face.
The short length of the chapters really keeps you turning the pages to see how it will end out. And the ending is very nicely done. It feels believable and realistic, with no deus ex machinas getting into things. All characters have been through great journeys by the end. Inspiring ones. For the reader.
A very nice bit of writing, if eleven or a grown up who needs a bit of a nice life lesson. Well worth five stars.
If you like books with lots of action, thrilling chase scenes and rollicking adventure then this may not be the right book for you. The plot is very simple, two children who feel like misfits find a refuge and when it is threatened the boy tries to save it. It is much more about the development and growth of the character Ware over a summer and how he finds his voice.
Ware is a boy who prefers his own company and dreads the "meaningful social interaction" that his parents believe is essential for him. He determines that to please them he needs to be "reborn" as the boy they want him to be, but through the course of the book and the characters he develops relationships with - Jolene, the girl with the garden - who tells him he needs to live in the real world; his Uncle Cyrus - who sees his potential and his Grandma (Big Deal) - who urges him to ask questions and use his voice - he comes to see that he doesn't need to become something else, he needs to become the person he actually is.
I thought this was beautifully written. The chapters are short so you fly through them. Aimed at 9 years and up, I think adults will also enjoy the story, younger children may struggle with the slow pace and lack of action. It's a story that rewards your attention, there are sections where characters see or hear things that make you as a reader think "Oh no!" but it's understandable that the characters don't immediately grasp the consequences of what they are seeing or saying.
I also loved how Ware - who thinks he is so different to his parents and not the boy that they want him to be - is actually more like them than he realises. For example he quotes his Dad towards the end of the book, something I picked up on the second read.
Some of the observations from Ware are spot on - How "Joining in" with other children, "is a matter of geography to grown-ups" a few steps either way does the trick.
My favourite lines probably come from Ware's friendship with Jolene - the girl who is growing papayas in the church lot - the relationship develops slowly, she has quite a spiky personality and isn't afraid to call Ware out:- "You spend a lot of time imagining things that aren't going to happen," Jolene said.
There is a contrast and a friction between them - Ware wants to believe in a world with knights and chivalry, or at least a world where he can adapt those ideals; whereas Jolene has a stark view of what is and isn't possible. I think Ware offers her hope and an alternative way of looking at things, and she offers him practicality, she challenges him to offer real solutions to their problems and not dreams.
Overall - I think that this is a book that rewards the reader. I think if a young person reads it and enjoys it, I could see it as a comfort read, a book that they come back to again and again.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 November 2020
Ware is 11 and a half years old and his parents want to send him every day to the Rec day camp whilst they work double shifts to buy their home. Ware craves peace and quiet and doesn’t understand why this earns him the label of being “odd”. By chance he finds a way to escape the Rec every day and instead goes to the abandoned church next door. Here he happens upon Jolene who has dedicated the yard areas as hers as she wants to be left alone to tend to her precious papaya plants. Ware takes over the church as his area as his area of solitude but before long he and Jolene must unite to fight for the greater good. This is a story of coming of age as Ware just wants to be accepted as who he is by his Parents.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 December 2020
This is such a special book. Its empowering and beautiful, its a lovely tale of friendship and acceptance for being different. The chapters aren't too big so can be read in short bursts which is ideal for my 9 year old as he can't sit for that long though he has found a new love for books.