I first read a Sara Pennypacker book back in 2016, a story called PAX. About a boy and his beloved red fox. It tugged at your emotions and the writing was like a tutorial on what makes a great MG book. Sara’s newest is again about a boy, and I’ve known many just like him.

Ware is eleven and he’s different than other kids. He does have two friends but prefers to spend time alone with the images and stories in his head. Ware knows his parents want him to be like other boys his age, to be normal. He doesn’t know if he can or if it is even possible. With both parents working double shifts, Ware is forced to spend the summer at the Rec, a daily summer camp experience. Nothing could be worse.

HERE IN THE REAL WORLD turns into a story of friendship (makes me think back to joys of reading Bridge to Terabithia). Jolene is like no other girl he has ever met, so he ditches the Rec and spends his days with Jolene at the abandoned church lot next door. It’s quite believable how this occurs.

The third person narration takes readers on a journey through 78 short chapters. Perfect for reluctant readers who are supposed to read one chapter a night or for teachers who only have five minutes left for a read-aloud. The pull to keep going forward through this heartfelt and charming story will have you eager to return for more.

Here’s the official blurb:

Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages 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 he 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.

But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the lot.

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



“Make me a new person,” he said, out loud this time. “Make me a normal kid!” he shouted. He remembered how stirring choir practice had sounded and added a “Hallelujah! for good measure. Then he fell backward.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

  1. The secondary characters like Jolene, Ashley, Grandma, and yes, a bartender bring more than expected toward helping Ware become the person he wants to be.
  2. Artists of all types will rejoice at the flag waving in support of good old fashioned silence. The best things are often created by quiet individuals.
  3. The disengaged kid; the ones who need time to blossom in this world…they need this book.
  4. The real world is the one you make for yourself. The theme of individuality shines throughout.
  5. Almost twelve-year-old Ware wins you over with his imagination and creative nature. Rejoice for all the Ware’s in the world.


Sara Pennypacker is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pax; the award-winning Clementine books and its spinoff series, Waylon!; and the acclaimed novel Summer of the Gypsy Moths. She divides her time between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Florida.

For more visit her web site!



About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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14 Responses to HERE IN THE REAL WORLD

  1. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    This one goes in my TBR booklist. Thanks a bunch.

  2. Natalie Aguirre says:

    You got me hooked when you compared this to Bridge to Terebithia. Sounds like a perfect summer read. Thanks.

  3. schmelzb says:

    Greg, I related to this book, better than PAX. It was so “real.” We all know students who these characters represent.
    Great review.

  4. Matt Sweeney says:

    This one sounds fantastic! I hadn’t seen it before. I love books where the chapters almost seem like snippets. Not every book can be like that, but I find that they lend themselves to “just one more chapter.”

  5. This is definitely going on my list of books I have to read this summer. I loved Pax and this sounds just a wonderful.

  6. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like a very sweet story! I can imagine that quite a few kids can relate to Ware. Thanks for the great review!

  7. Loved Pax. I really like the themes in this book, as well as the two main characters who are misfits in a very good way. Like the catchy title. Want to read this book.

  8. This was a lot like Vrabel’s Caleb and Kit. Glad you enjoyed it.

  9. I really love that title, and I also like the premise. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Pax is near the top of my staggering TBR pile. Now I must add this one to my list. Thanks for the heads up. I look forward to reading this one.

  11. I look forward to getting my hands on this and reading it. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Ok, I want to read this NOW, Greg. You’ve made a compelling case! Certain aspects of your description remind me of one of my little-known favorites, An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumor Godden. Requesting books from my library is hit or miss at the moment, but I’m going to try. 🙂

  13. Pingback: The 2020 GOLDEN CUP AWARDS | Always in the Middle…

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