Harper Winslow has some problems.
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Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFayeHarper has a lot of problems. His parents are too wrapped up in their own lives to give him the time and respect he deserves. Harper sets a small fire in school to get attention. The attention he gets includes probation, a court order for community service, and he must write an essay on how he will turn his life around. To help him complete the essay, his mother enrolls him in a writing group called the Tuesday Cafe. With their assistance, and that of the school counselor and his parents, Harper discovers ways to change his life and fill the emptiness inside him. The innovative setting provides an intriguing and fresh look at a coming-of -age story.
VOYA - Sarah FlowersWhen fifteen-year-old Harper Winslow is arrested for setting a fire in a trash can at his school, the judge yells at Harper, sympathizes with his socially-prominent parents, and then sentences Harper to forty hours of community service and a two thousand-word essay. Harper's mother cares enough to enroll him in a writing class called the Tuesday Cafe, but not quite enough to ask Harper if he wants to take a class, and certainly not enough to listen to the entire phone message, which concludes with the information that the Tuesday Cafe is a writing class for learning disabled and newly-literate adults. Therein lies the crux of Harper's problem. He is an afterthought child, born when his brother and sister were already nearly grown up and his parents well embarked on their careers. His parents are both busy with their jobs, their social life, and their grandchildren. Harper feels ignored, which he is, and he has never really learned how to get along with people. Fortunately for Harper, the dynamics of the Tuesday Cafe are different for him, and by interacting with this motley crew of classmates, as well as with Josh, the writing teacher, and Ms. Davis, his school counselor, Harper begins to see that he can have some control over his life, and that there are better ways of filling the lonely void than starting fires in trash cans. The characters and their conversations ring true, and the resolution is satisfying, if a bit pat. Harper is a modern-day Holden Caulfield with a positive twist: no nervous breakdown here, just a gradual and realistic turnaround, as he uses his writing exercises to come to terms with his parents and with his life. Recommended. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library JournalGr 6-9Harper Winslow, 15, is the cynical, disaffected child of affluent, preoccupied parents. Brought before a judge for setting a garbage can on fire in his Emville, Alberta, high school, Harper is sentenced to 40 hours of community service and a 2000-word essay on "How I Plan to Turn My Life Around." His efficient mother enrolls him in a local writing class called "The Tuesday Cafe." Thrust into this unpretentious, educationally and intellectually challenged group, Harper gradually sheds his aloof, defensive facade. He learns that self-worth and friendships derive from openness, honesty, and accountability. His coming-of-age testimonial exposes the contemporary malaise of wealthy teenagers who need parental communications more than material advantages. Adolescent sarcasm and perceptions lighten the narrative and clearly depict the personalities of the judge, parents, guidance counselor, and the motley "Tuesday Cafe" crew. Harper's introspection, candor, and resolutions ring true. The engaging conversational style, upbeat ending, and "take control of your life" message combine to create an appealing package.Gerry Larson, Durham Magnet Center, Durham, NC
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