Friday, May 24, 2013
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
307 p. Sourcebooks/ Jabberwocky, April 2, 2013. 9781402281068. (Purchased)
Eleven-year-old Ratchet, decides to start a brand new notebook to start a new school year. Of homeschooling. She has never been to school and she kind of wonders what she's missing, especially in the friend department. It has just been Ratchet, well, Rachel and her dad since her mom died. Since her dad likes to move into junky houses and rehab them instead of paying rent, they move a lot. It's just easier to homeschool than to continually change schools.
And, yeah, even though Ratchet's dad supposedly checks her work, she's really on her own to do it and finds that she's interrupted most days when her dad needs help repairing cars anyway. She's his right-hand gal, hence the nickname.
Each journal entry is a writing response to an assignment in her homeschooling kit. There are quick-writes, poems, dialogues, essays, and life events journal entries, among other forms. Through these we get glimpses of Ratchet's lonely life and her attempts at making a friend.
Ratchet is the first to admit that her environmental-activist father is a bit of a nut-job. He's always embarrassing her by attending city council meetings to suggest ways of saving the environment. He insists on recycling everything, which means that Ratchet never has new clothes. She shops at thrift stores but would so love to have something new to wear. He also steadfastly refuses to discuss her mother with her. But, he's her "important person" and really, without a mother, where would she be without him?
Ratchet found a place in my heart pretty quickly. Her voice is engaging and sincere. She's bright and mechanically inclined, open-minded and observant. She just aches for a friend and to somehow fill the spot where her mother used to be. The structure of her journal is unique, allowing for the glimpses into her life to come together in a satisfying way. The cover is appealing. The notebook style will appeal to fans of that format, but though there is humor, they will find depth as Ratchet asserts herself.
This is a lovely debut.