Review of In Honor of Broken Things

In Honor of Broken Things In Honor of Broken Things
by Paul Acampora
Middle School    Dial    208 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-9848-1664-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1665-8    $10.99

Navigating the chaos and social groups of adolescent life can be difficult; in this novel, three friends help one another despite feeling “broken” themselves. Fourteen-year-old Oscar, football star at West Beacon Junior/Senior High School (go Mighty Mules!), has recently lost his younger sister to cancer. Riley, who contends with issues of anxiety and anger, has moved with her single mother back to Mom’s hometown. Noah—spelling bee champ, artist extraordinaire, mathlete—is dealing with his parents’ separation. Both Noah and Riley are new to West Beacon; Oscar, returning to school two weeks after his sister’s funeral, doesn’t want to hang with the cool kids anymore (he feels more like he’s the only member of the “your-little-sister-just-died-and-now-you-sort-of-hate-everybody club”). In Mr. Martin’s ceramics class, the three find themselves forming the group they all need. Clay becomes the central metaphor of the story—that which can be created; broken objects that can be fixed; and the things that can’t, such as sisters dying, robberies, and families changing. With brokenness as a theme, crushing sadness could have sunk the narrative, but ­Acampora (Confusion Is Nothing New, rev. 7/18) leavens the story with Noah’s humor, Riley’s tell-it-like-it-is feistiness, and Oscar’s openness to receiving help.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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