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The Patterns of Paper Monsters Paperback – August 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
An easy read that balances the disconnected and emotionality of teenagers, while exploring the difficulties of defining a personal moral compass in a superficial world.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book--a wonderful, generous portrait of a boy who reminds me of people I used to know and love.Published on June 27, 2014 by S. Jaffe
Yes I enjoyed this novel.
Mostly I enjoyed the writing style of Emma Rathbone.
She is a very talented and gifted writer. Read more