Book Review: Paintings From The Cave by Gary Paulsen

I’ve been reading YA lately and was absolutely thrilled with this book I picked up at the library.  Paintings From The Cave is a collection of three novellas by Gary Paulsen.   Each story revolves around a different  “child who slipped through the cracks”.     In an introductory note,  Paulsen explains that he himself was just such a child who through circumstances finds himself with poor or worse parental supervision and is forced to confront the harder realities of life at a very early age.      Twice in the first person and once in the third,  Paulsen spins wonderfully vivid tales of three very different childhoods.

Jake, who is usually just called J in the high rise apartment building where he officially lives with his aunt and survives a world run by the local drug dealer through stealth and smarts has a fascinating and far reaching encounter with an unlikely neighbor who wants him to pose for a painted portrait.   JoJo’s substance abusing parents,  by turn neglectful and abusive have made her wary.   But her unlikely very first friendship with a girl who is dying of a terrible disease is a beautiful flower in her gray life.  Jaime and his older brother Erik are teenagers on their own;  after running a way from a violently abusive father they survive by couch surfing as Erik struggles to work three jobs and Jaime to stay in school.

The three separate stories allow Paulsen to show a wonderful range,  and the stories ring true in each of three distinct voices.  Paintings From The Cave is Very Highly Recommended to anyone who enjoys Young Adult fiction.

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