REMEMBER US, by Jacqueline Woodson, Nancy Paulsen Books, Oct. 10, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 10 and up)
A girl struggles to find her place in the world as her neighborhood burns down around her in Remember Us, by Jacqueline Woodson.
It seems like Sage’s whole world is on fire the summer before she starts seventh grade. As house after house burns down, her Bushwick neighborhood gets referred to as “The Matchbox” in the local newspaper.
And while Sage prefers to spend her time shooting hoops with the guys, she’s also still trying to figure out her place inside the circle of girls she’s known since childhood. A group that each day, feels further and further away from her.
But it’s also the summer of Freddy, a new kid who truly gets Sage. Together, they reckon with the pain of missing the things that get left behind as time moves on, savor what’s good in the present, and buoy each other up in the face of destruction. And when the future comes, it is Sage’s memories of the past that show her the way forward. Remember Us speaks to the power of both letting go . . . and holding on. —Synopsis provided by Nancy Paulsen Books
Jacqueline Woodson is a masterful storyteller. Her prose has a richness to it that feels as if she’s in the room talking to you herself. Her style is tight, carefully selecting narrative and dialogue. Never giving too much or too little.
At the center of Remember Us is Sage. A teen who lost her own firefighter father to a blaze. Her relationship with fire is complicated, but her dreams for the future — becoming a pro basketball player — are not. Until they are, too. Sage’s heart is on the page for all to see — her pain, triumphs, her memories.
My one complaint is that Woodson only give pop culture references to the time period in which this is set, only placing it in the 1970s and 80s in her endnotes. I think some other clue might be helpful to readers who are looking for context.
Remember Us is a captivating, fast-moving read. With 77 chapters and less than 200 pages, it’s approachable for all middle-readers.
*Remember Us is a Cybils-nominated book. This review is my opinion and not the opinion of the middle-grade fiction panel as a whole.
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