Our Own Little Paradise

Arctis. Apr. 2022. 300p. Tr $15. ISBN 9781646900183.
Gr 3-7–There are 54 days in summer break and Nora (race unspecified, assumed white) needs to fill them all. She’s the only person in her sixth-grade class who isn’t planning on going on vacation, so when it comes time to declare her plans, she panics and says she’s going to “the tropics” so she can impress the popular kids whose acceptance she is desperate for. As her lie snowballs into posting fake photos on Instagram and telling her ailing mother she’s busy with an imaginary friend, she finds herself gravitating toward Wilmer, the new, equally poor, equally uncool kid in her class. Together, they build their own version of the tropics, but their creation may not be any more stable than a sandcastle in a storm. This is a Norwegian import that translates well for American audiences, though the intense pressure for a nice vacation and the classes Nora’s mother takes before getting a job are based in trends that are obvious in Norway, but possibly confusing abroad. Nora narrates in short chapters that help move the story quickly in a way that will benefit developing readers. While its cast of characters is small, it’s well crafted, though Nora and her mom are really the only people who grow and change perceptibly.
VERDICT A short but sweet novel on struggling with social awkwardness and the importance of friendship.

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