Paper Things: 12/30/15
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson is a middle grade story of a girl trying to transfer into an elite middle school for gifted students. Beyond the usual stress of maintaining excellent grades, filling out the paperwork, and making a good impression on the admissions team, Ari also has to deal with being homeless.
I don't know how many novels about homelessness there are. For any age level, this is the first one I've read. According to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in thirty children experienced homelessness in 2013 (Newsweek, 2014). Yet when homelessness is reported, it's usually in regards to drug addiction and the lack of mental health funding in this country.
Ari could have a home if she decides to stay with her guardian, a woman picked by her mother before her death. But Ari believes that family should stick together, so she decides to leave a known home for the uncertainty of living with her older brother.
With constantly being on the move the only thing Ari can take with her besides her homework (which does get left behind, sometimes, too) is her collection of paper things. These are paper dolls she's collected from various catalogs. It's her way of imagining a better life and is something she can keep tucked away.
As a child I too made my own paper dolls from catalogs. With catalogs being less of a thing, in paper at least, I wonder if this detail was more a bit of nostalgia leaking in. Regardless, they were an apt metaphor for how fragile life is.