Middle Grade Book Review: Here In the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

Hi everyone, it’s Sarah!

In my quest to find mock Newbery books, this title made appearances on several other lists. I thought I would try it out and see how I felt about it. While I found another book that I thought was better suited for my mock pick, this was still a solid book.


Title: Here In The Real World

Author: Sara Pennypacker


Ware spends much of his time in his own head, to the point of not being present for important things, like when his grandmother falls and breaks both of her hips. Ware was supposed to spend the rest of his summer with his grandma, but because she is recovering, he is forced to finish up his summer at home. His parents are working extra shifts to earn money to buy their house from their landlord. Since no one will be around during the day and they don’t want to leave Ware alone, his mother forces him to go to a summer day camp program at the local rec center. Ware hates it there and is tired of people pointing out how antisocial he is, so instead he begins going to a nearby lot and building a castle. Ware is not the only person working on the lot, there is also another young girl, Jolene, who is gardening on the lot. The two begrudgingly become friends and when their lot is being put up for auction, Ware plans to use his talents to save the lot. While Jolene is a realist and needs to live in the real world, she allows herself the slight hope of saving the lot. Will these two new friends be able to save the space they love?


This novel was well-plotted and well-written. There was an organic mixture of information related to medieval times, gardening, and flora/fauna. This informational aspect kept the story compelling and made the characters sympathetic. There is noticeable growth from the characters and they truly delve into what it means to be part of the real world. This is a dense literary text that will work well in the classrooms.


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