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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9781734787405 B0868XNSH9
  • 218 pages
  • $8.99
Jam Sessions: Sometimes in Middle School, the best you can do is survive.

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Meet Phillip. His mom relocates him to a new school in the middle of the school year. Things do not go well. Phillip lands himself a trip to the dean of student’s office when he tries to forge his mother’s signature. Maybe if he spelled her name correctly it would have gone better. Phillip also finds himself having more and more anxiety. And the song some bullies are singing is certainly not helping: Phillip Willip, Puddin and Pie. Got a bad grade and made him cry. There is one class Phillip has that is going well. It is with Mr. Filter, who starts each day with a writing prompt. These “jam sessions” allow students to be creative and enjoy writing. Phillip writes about being a basketball on a soccer field. Another day he writes about receiving two dragon eggs in the mail, one for himself and one for a particularly cute girl. But will Phillip ever be able to make his real life go as well as his Jam Sessions?
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Phillip, the new kid in school in Harwood's coming-of-age novel, faces realistic and relatable student and teen problems. The only thing that's going well for him is his English class, where he reads Ender's Game and discovers an outlet for his frustrations in the teacher's daily "jam sessions," free writing exercises that jump off from a creative prompt. Harwood's novel makes the everyday dramatic and urgent. Here, Phillip's fear of disappointing his mother, or his worry about what will happen when a suspended bully returns to school, prove gripping.

Prose/Style: Harwood's prose is clear and unadorned, offering little in the way of description. Instead, it's highly sensitive to Phillip's feelings as he bumbles through his school days and slowly discovers who his friends are. The kids' dialogue is sometimes flat, lacking the inventive weirdness of actual child-chatter, but the adults' speech is ideal: authority figures who soothingly help point Phillip (and possibly young readers) toward strategies for handling anxiety. Some passages of action falter, and more rigorous proofreading would standardize distractingly inconsistent product names. For most of the book, though, the prose persuasively connects Phillip's feelings to the scenes around him.

Originality: Harwood invests familiar character types with fresh power: spitball-blowing bullies; a fantasy-obsessed band of social outsiders; and a sensitive and observant English teacher. The embarrassments and minor disasters that Philip experiences in Jam Sessions aren't new, but through his eyes they feel fresh. Classroom scenes of Phillip and other students writing and sharing their own creative works based on a teacher's prompt are especially strong, as each kid's writing is unique and revealing of their personas. (That's true, also, of the instructor's sensitive responses.)

Character Development: Phillip, his friends, his teachers, his mother, and even his bullies all feel alive on the page. These seem like real kids, in a convincing world, facing real problems that readers might learn from – but that aspect of the book never interferes with the narrative's momentum or excitement.

Date Submitted: April 18, 2020

Reviews
https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2P5RKALLUXST8/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl

Phillip is a relatable and likeable character. Pre-teens and teens will empathize with his experiences, including his "jam sessions" and how writing can help us process our experiences, as well as, our hopes, and dreams!

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9781734787405 B0868XNSH9
  • 218 pages
  • $8.99

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