A contemporary Holden Caulfield does time in a juvy center in Rathbone's singular debut. Seventeen-year-old Jacob Higgins is three months into his sentence for armed robbery, passing time at a northern Virginia juvenile detention center. Fueled by sarcasm and possible sociopathic tendencies, he endures "Olympic trials of boredom and grudging acquiescence," receives visits from his alcoholic mother, develops a budding romance with a girl he occasionally runs into, and wonders about the diabolical plans of a mysterious boy from an upper-class neighborhood. Rathbone's extraordinary and imaginative command of language surprises at every turn, from a woman described as "a pile of a person who smells like someone's weird house" to an air vent blowing "glacial wind swept up from prehistoric ice dunes." Though laxly plotted and a bit disappointing at the end, the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Napoleon Dynamite sensibility is reason enough to stick with this story of one messed-up kid's ambivalent mosey toward getting it together.
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"No matter how loudly I praised The Patterns of Paper Monsters, no matter how many classic coming-of-age stories I compared it to, the unforgettably sarcastic and broken and endearing narrator, Jacob Higgons, would no doubt roll his eyes and show his teeth in a smile that was more of a snarl and say, 'Can't you do better than that?' And I would want-as I wanted so many times when reading this debut novel-to slap him upside the head and strangle him into a hug. And you will feel the same way, utterly charmed and disgusted, ultimately moved, when you read what promises to be one of the best books of the year by one of our best new writers, Emma Rathbone."
--Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding, Refresh, Refresh, and The Language of Elk
"Patterns of Paper Monsters is a dispatch from the teenage wasteland of a juvenile detention center, fervidly delivered by Emma Rathbone's irreverent, perceptive, and achingly funny young hero, Jacob Higgins. He refuses to succumb to the numbness and absurdity of his incarceration, in turn holding a jagged mirror shard to adolescence, failed relationships, and life in modern America. A voice that is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, and startlingly true."
--Lydia Peelle, author of Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
"There is a new and seductive electricity in the voice of Emma Rathbone's brilliant young narrator, Jake Higgins. Listen to him! Unafraid, unsentimental, and destructively smart, The Patterns of Paper Monsters masterfully turns sadness into ecstatic, shocking laughter."
--Patrick Somerville, author of The Cradle
I love this book--a wonderful, generous portrait of a boy who reminds me of people I used to know and love.Published 14 months ago by S. Jaffe
Very much enjoyed Rathbone's peek into the mind of this teenage male character. Humboldt might recognize this youth; as might Meursault. Read morePublished on April 29, 2013 by Daniel Digby III