Ari and her brother Gage are being raised by their mother's friend, Janna. Ari doesn't even remember her father, a soldier, who died in combat, and her mother died when she was in second grade. Her mom asks Janna, a high school friend, to raise her children. However, Gage and Janna have always butted heads. So Gage decides to move out and take Ari with him, because one of their mother's final wishes was that the two remain together.
Gage and Janna have nowhere to go when they leave Janna's, which they don't tell anyone. The two move between friends' homes, sleeping on couches, floors, and every once in a while spend the night in a homeless shelter.
Ari is finding it difficult to get her schoolwork done, her hair is greasy, and her clothing stained. Yet, she attempts to keep up appearances, not wanting anyone to know what is really going on in her life. Her best friend seems to be finding other girls to hang out with, and Ari's application to a prestigious middle school is due soon, and Ari is under pressure to be admitted and honor another of her mother's wishes.
Jacobson's novel had me sucked in from the first page. As I read I became anxious myself for Ari and Gage who had so much stacked against them. With each day they remained homeless, and with more obstacles standing in their way, I wanted to reach out and help the two myself.
For all the tween readers who think the problem of homelessness is something that can be easily solved, Jacobson does a great job of sharing the many steps that Gage needed to go through in order to secure a home for him and his sister.
Ari continues to dream of having a home, hanging on to her paper things, a folder of people and things she has cut from catalogs in order to create the perfect family and home, something she longs for.
The resolution to Paper Things left me satisfied and longing to press this book into students' hands. This is a must read for tween and middle grade students.