Soft Place to Land
by Marks, Janae

Twelve-year old Joy dreams of writing music for the movies, but first she has to survive her family's move into a small apartment when her father loses his job.

*Starred Review* Having one's life uprooted is always unsettling, but it can be especially difficult for a child. After her dad loses his job, 12-year-old Joy Taylor finds herself out of their single-family home and living in a cramped apartment, as well as going to a new school. To make matters worse, Joy's parents are fighting more and more, and they can no longer afford the piano lessons Joy loves. Luckily, Joy finds a friend in neighbor Nora, who introduces her to a hidden storage area in the apartment building, called "the Hideout." There kids can take a break from their families and hang out. Joy finds some writing on the wall that makes her think that another kid is also struggling. As Joy continues to try to figure out who is behind these messages, she and Nora start a dog-walking business to raise money for their hobbies. But as things start to look up, Joy and Nora have a falling out, and Joy's parents reach the brink of divorce. Readers will find themselves yearning along with Joy and rooting for her to find a way to make connections and a home once again. Blending mystery with realistic fiction, Joy's story of how complicated life is for a kid will resonate with readers in tender and poignant ways. Grades 3-7. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

When her telecommunications professional father is laid off, Joy's family's relocation across town threatens to cost her more than money can buy. Twelve-year-old Joy Taylor wants to compose music for films, but now that money is tight, her piano lessons, along with so much else, are sacrificed. They have moved from a house to apartment 3C, a small two-bedroom where she and her younger sister must share a bunk bed and the walls are so thin, her parents' fighting keeps them up at night. Then Joy meets Nora from 5B, who lost her mother to cancer. The two girls share a love of movies, complicated home lives, and an obvious need to just get away sometimes. A cornerstone of the friendships between Joy and other kids in the building is the secret, cramped Hideout accessed through a storage closet near the laundry room. According to the literal writing on the wall, it's been a sanctuary for generations of kids needing a space to retreat. Marks makes the necessity of this intimate space for not-quite-little-but-not-yet-big kids simultaneously plausible and disheartening. As the story progresses through various relationship trials, it's not the tween drama that provides the most emotional resonance; rather, seeing children work so hard to make their own place in the world, forge connections, and pursue their own interests is truly inspiring-but their needing to do so in quiet corners while adults remain oblivious is terribly sobering. Joy and her family are Black; Nora is cued as Latinx. A bittersweet story of silent perseverance and kids working for themselves. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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