What does home look like? For 11-year-old Ari and her older brother Gage, home is not what it used to be. After losing both of their parents, the they move in with a guardian, but when Gage decides he must leave, he takes Ari with him. The catch is, he doesn't have an apartment or even a place to stay. Ari must find a way stay afloat at school and keep the appearance that everything is normal, while the pair skips from house to house, and from shelter to shelter, sleeping on couches and floors. The only thing that ties her to her fading childhood is a collection of people she cut out from magazines to resemble a family -- her "paper things."
Life isn't always easy and author Jennifer Richard Jacobson doesn't sugar-coat the hard reality that Gage and his sister must face as a result of their decisions. But she also explores the lessons that each learns along their journey. After an experience like homelessness, life will never be the same for either of them and they each must find a new way forward.
Writing about tough subjects is not always easy for the writer. Authors must tap into deep emotions to be able to write in authentically -- in a way that is believable for those who will read the book. If the reader cannot experience the trials with the main characters, the book will remain at a distance or simply put aside while the reader moves on to something more exciting. In order to do that, writers need to see the toughness of life for themselves. To write about homelessness, a writer may need to visit a homeless shelter or talk to people who have experienced it.
Don't be afraid to go to difficult places in your writing. Books are a safe place to experience difficult situations and figure out solutions to everyday problems that people just like you and me face. But writers must go there first, experience it, live it, feel it, then write about it. The journey for the writer is not easy, but it is certainly worth it.
Check out Paper Things in the children's department of your local library.