A SOFT PLACE TO LAND


13 June 2021 A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Janae Marks, HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, September 2021, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-06-287587-7

 

“There is a place

Where I can go

When I feel low

When I feel blue”

-- Lennon/McCartney “There’s a Place” (1963)

 

“‘Well,’ I start. ‘My family and I moved here because we had to sell our house. My dad lost his job a few months ago, and they couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore. It was going to’--I pause to remember the word my parents used--’foreclose and the bank was going to take it away from us. But before that happened, my parents put it up for sale and found a new family to buy it.’ I swallow, and there’s a big lump in my throat. I lived in that house for my entire life until today. It felt like a member of my family, that now we’ve lost. Saying goodbye to it this morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I blink a bunch of times so I won’t cry.”

 

Twelve-year-old Joy Taylor has gone from her own bedroom in that single-family home to the bunk bed she now shares with her little sister Malia in a small apartment across town. She also has to give up piano lessons, putting a dent in her dream of growing up to become a film score composer. 

 

The new apartment gets smaller and smaller as her parents' financial and interpersonal difficulties lead to screaming matches and, eventually, to her father moving out.

 

Fortunately, Joy is befriended by a new schoolmate, Nora. In addition to bringing Joy into an existing circle of peers--all of them living in that apartment building--Nora introduces Joy to the Hideout. A small, unmarked door on the floor of a cleaning supply closet leads to a long-forgotten room that serves as a secret clubhouse for kids in the building. Miserable about the tension between her parents, Joy readily slips into the habit of deceiving Mom and Dad about her whereabouts, and joins her new friends underground.

 

In the Hideout, Joy begins an exchange of communications--written on a wall--with an unknown person who is struggling like she is. Trying to figure out the identity of the other writer becomes a mystery for Joy to solve. 

 

Meanwhile, yearning to return to piano lessons, and wanting money to do so, Joy exhibits determination and resourcefulness by establishing an after-school dog-walking business with Nora.

 

Of course, there are serious pitfalls relating to lying to parents. Then, it seems, everything goes wrong. Fortunately, the resulting bad times for Joy will eventually lead to a positive resolution. 

 

A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is a quick and engaging read. The 8-12 crowd will eat this one up.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

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