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The Patterns of Paper Monsters Paperback – August 9, 2010


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books; 1 edition (August 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031607750X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316077507
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,899,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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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Review

"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

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Harrigan on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
I started to underline the funny lines to pull out for quotes, but I had to stop, because I was underlining the whole book.

Patterns is a coming of age novel about a seventeen-year-old boy from the wrong part of Northern Virginia. His father abandoned him early in life, his mother is an infantile alcoholic, and his stepfather is a chronically unemployed wife beater. All the present action takes place in a juvenile detention center, where Jacob is being held for attempted armed robbery of a convenience store. Pretty grim stuff. But Rathbone manages a tricky feat: she makes the book a delight to read, a rollicking adventure, a hilarious romp through the twisted mind of a teenager with a sharp wit and enough attitude and energy to power a whole novel.

The book is framed as journal entries Jacob writes every evening, and the action covers the last few months of Jacob's time as a prisoner, ending with a short narrative of what happens to him after he gets out. It's written in the first person and present tense, which gives it an immediacy that pulls the reader in. Jacob uses a lot of sensory information, which makes us feel like we are in the room with him.

As with most first person narratives, the driving force of this book is the voice. It's defiant and judgmental of people and things that don't seem authentic, sincere, or fair. It's confessional, unrepentant, sarcastic, clever, and honest. It is never self-indulgent or self-pitying. Because of Jacob's honesty and perceptiveness, he gains our sympathy (also, because the story is in the first person). Because he is a nonconformist bent on seeing the world in his own way, he allows himself a lot of word play and inventiveness, which makes his journal entries surprising, refreshing, and very funny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Megan D. Kasten on October 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Despite the disparate tastes of our book club, this out-of-left-field pick received unanimous critical acclaim from our living room skeptics.
Those of us with teenaged boys found the verbally precocious, yet emotionally immature voice of the protagonist to be spot on. The contrast of the spare, stark plot with the attention to minute trivial detail seemed a subtle metaphor for the simple and excruciatingly dull existence of an intelligent kid consigned to a life in the confines of a juvenile detention center. The author does not dust sugar on the grim situation, yet gives us Jacob's quirky inner dialogue to lighten what could have been a hopeless tale. And his tentative attempts at moving toward adulthood are very touching.
This opener gives me high hopes for what comes next.
And yes, I know I'm from Charlottesville, but no, I don't personally know the author, so I don't have any skin in this game. I just liked the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T.Laco on September 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's a good book. Parts are funny, parts are sad, there's a resolution (of sorts). The author is stunningly amazing at writing the mind of a sarcastic 17-year-old in juvie. I liked it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Harrigan on September 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
What a remarkably good debut novel(la). The story is set at a juvenile detention center in Northern Virginia, and is narrated in the voice of Jacob, a smart fifteen year old inmate from a screwed up family. Over the course of the book, Jacob falls for a girl who is also an inmate, and gets tangled up in the plans of a sociopathic rich boy inmate. The narrative voice is amazing, often very funny and profane, and Jacob grows in subtle, believable ways. A really good book and a very fast read.
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