"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
If you can get past the awkward and off-putting title, this is an appealing first novel. The 17-year-old narrator, Jacob Higgins, is serving time in a juvenile detention center for a failed armed robbery. Initially angry and uncommunicative, Jacob resists the attempts of his therapist to confront his problems, which include an alcoholic mother and an abusive stepfather. But Jacob's icy front begins to thaw through his attraction to another detainee, a girl named Andrea, and through his dislike of another inmate, a truly dangerous boy named David. The best and perhaps most unlikely catalyst in Jacob's transformation is a young man who volunteers to mentor Jacob; their encounters are awkward, but it is through this mentor that Jacob begins to think about the kind of life he wants for himself. Though the novel's twin climaxes aren't handled as skillfully as possible—one is overdramatized, the other undramatized—this is a totally enjoyable debut. Rathbone is a good writer, with a real flair for metaphor.Verdict Recommended for readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories like Catcher in the Rye.—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC