In Honor of Broken Things

Paul Acampora. Dial, $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-984816-64-1

Three students united by their respective family troubles form a supportive friendship circle in Acampora’s (Danny Constantino’s First (and maybe last?) Date) earnest narrative, which encourages vulnerability and acceptance. Ninth grader Oscar Villanueva, who is Mexican American, has just lost his younger sister to cancer; previously homeschooled eighth grader Noah Wright, who is white, decides to enroll in public school, spurred by his parents’ divorce; and fellow eighth grader Riley Baptiste, also white, has just moved to their small town of West Beacon, Pa., after her mother was held up at gunpoint. Though the students are outwardly very different—Oscar is a popular starting linebacker on the football team, Noah is extremely academically advanced, and Riley is quick to anger and thinks her fists can solve all her problems—they bond after meeting in a mixed-grade introductory clay class. Told in distinct and alternating POVs, the group grows closer over misshapen pottery as they admit weakness, navigate new experiences, and learn to accept help from others. Acampora approaches the characters’ struggles with levity and intentional thoughtfulness, making for a tender tale. Ages 8–12. Agent: Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow. (Mar.)
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