The Places We Sleep
Selected for Summer/Fall 2020 Indies Introduce List
It's early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.
I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don't.
Tennessee is her family's latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad's work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.
And then it's September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey's "home" looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.
How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?
Abbey's body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country's collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.
Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey's coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it's a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.
Abbey's aunt works in one of the towers, and her mother leaves to be with her sister's family, as she is currently missing. Abbey doesn't know how to bring up her period, so she tries to muddle through, while also remembering her aunt and wishing for her to be OK. Abbey can't imagine a world where her aunt does not exist.
The world is also changing around her, and the bullies that pick on her also pick on a Muslim girl. Abbey is not sure how to reach out to her or support her, and she feels frozen. People are also protesting for peace and against war, while her father is being mobilized. Abbey is trying to find her place in the world, and it seems like everything - including herself - is changing.
What I loved: The poetry really captures the emotions, confusion, and tumult of not only entering puberty and getting a period, but also the fear and sadness around 9/11. This book can really help to bring this event to the current generation who may have difficulty connecting with it as they did not experience it. Abbey is also dealing with teasing/bullying, connecting with her parents, and finding her own way in the world. These themes, plus the theme of religious intolerance in reactions to another Muslim student, are really important for the middle grade audience. Abbey's voice will really speak to this age group, and the writing/poetry is just absolutely gorgeous.
Final verdict: Compelling and beautifully composed, THE PLACES WE SLEEP is a historical middle grade that brings together puberty and 9/11 in all their confusion, fear, and tumult. Recommend for the middle grade audience.