cover image The Paris Project

The Paris Project

Donna Gephart. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5344-4086-9

Seventh-grader Cleveland Rosebud Potts has a six-step plan to escape Sassafras, Fla., and Sunny Smiles Trailer Park, where everyone assumes that she must be a bad seed because her dad is in jail. Cleveland dreams of leaving town and attending the American School of Paris, but her immediate challenges are facing an ex-friend turned bully, navigating a shifting relationship with her best friend, and sorting through her confusing feelings about her father (no one knows that after her dad was caught stealing money from his boss to gamble at the dog track, he also stole Cleveland’s dog-walking earnings). As the young woman navigates her feelings of shame, fear, and betrayal, Gephart (Lily and Dunkin) creates a winning character in her beret-clad, Francophile heroine. This authentic, ultimately hopeful story of forgiveness and empathy is a memorable, heartfelt read that centers the difficult, complicated reality of addiction, poverty, and bullying in small-town America. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]