Here in the Real World

Sara Pennypacker

Here in the Real World
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Here in the Real World

Sara Pennypacker

Ware can’t wait to spend summer ‘off in his own world' and generally being left alone. But then his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called ‘normal' kids do.

On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon Ware starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot.

Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer - he doesn’t live in the ‘real world' like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge. And when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware vows to save the lot.

But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do?


Enthusiasts of Sara Pennypacker’s Pax will delight in the release of Here in the Real World, another intuitive and sensitive work with a beautifully flawed protagonist at its heart. This is a story about Ware, a quiet and reserved boy who prefers to keep to the periphery of things, watching others from the sidelines. Ware’s parents are too preoccupied working double shifts, keeping ahead financially, to notice that Ware feels like a misfit and a disappointment to them.

When his parents enrol Ware in a summer kids' program to experience ‘meaningful social interaction’ with other kids, Ware’s anxiety about socialising makes for raw and painful reading. But the reader is offered something profound in the story that follows as Ware finds an abandoned church, befriends a gutsy, spirited girl, and together they stake out a place that brings purpose and a sense of belonging for them both. Ware finds courage in imagining himself as a guardian, of sorts, a champion serving the needs of others, especially against any perceived ‘unfairness’. Ware’s story is about personal transformation, knowing who you are and finding value in difference. Recommended for ages 10+.

Natalie Platten is the assistant manager and children’s book buyer at Readings Doncaster.

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