book review: The Patterns of Paper Monsters

Title: The Patterns of Paper Monsters
Author: Emma Rathbone
ISBN: 978-0316077507
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books; 1 edition (August 9, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Review source: publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Jacob Higgins is a jaded 17-year-old serving a sentence in a Virginia juvenile detention center for attempted armed robbery. His mother is an alcoholic, battered at the hands of her husband. In a journal, Jacob records bitter observations about day-to-day happenings; the cafeteria, his therapist, a budding romance with Andrea and goings-on in the classroom. Author Emma Rathbone’s knack for clever phrasing kept me reading:

My anger is wide and nuanced. It is gaping and ancient. It’s stronger than when you’re in the ocean and a wave pulls you down and you get a sense of some gravitational hinge powering things. It is stronger than that. It is all-encompassing and more glinty than five hundred suburban pools at midday.

Usually my mom is a photocopy of herself printed out on sandpaper. But today she was in color, normal, shifting around in the confines of her own noonday box of sober thought.

While there isn’t anything particularly profound in The Patterns of Paper Monsters, it provides a snapshot into the world of troubled youths. Jacob slowly comprehends the consequences of an individual’s actions. He reflects on what will happen when he gets released and slowly understands his rage. When David, another inmate, attempts to get Jacob involved in a plot to destroy the center, Jacob’s conscience kicks into overdrive. The Patterns of Paper Monsters may not become the next classic literary record of disembodied youth but it’s well worth a read.

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The Patterns of Paper Monsters

  1. #1 by bermudaonion on August 26, 2010 - 13:52

    I’m fascinated with stories like these – maybe because they’re so far removed from my life? – so I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for your review!

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