Book Review: The Places We Sleep

Caroline Brooks DuBois’s The Places We Sleep is an evocative middle grade book written in verse. Abbey is, once again, the new girl. This time, her family isn’t living on base. As she adjusts to a new house, a new school, and new potential friends, her world is rocked by the September 11, 2001 attacks. With her father in the military and family in New York, Abbey feels the reverberation of this event deeply.

Written in verse, this novel captures the feeling of the days leading up to and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks well. The evocative emotional descriptions will hit home for anyone who was alive that day, and accurately portrays the depth of emotion for those born after. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for books to introduce children to the event. Abbey’s connections to the military and New York have a big impact on her experience. I also appreciate how the author included an Islamic family, and that these characters were not treated as villains, but that their plight was just as hard as Abbey’s.

DuBois strikes a delicate balance between regular daily life for a preteen in the early 2000s and living through moments that end up in history books. The characters are well-developed, further encouraging empathy in the reader. From the bullies on the bus to struggling to find your voice, Abbey’s daily life is relatable. The trio of girls, dubbed The Trio, that influence her fate were almost too relatable, sending me rocketing backwards in time to my middle school’s equivalent trio. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or concerned that a trio of powerful preteen girls manipulating a middle school is a universal theme.

I recommend the hard copy of this book, as my Kindle had formatting issues that made the beautiful text at times difficult to read; other reviewers have mentioned similar issues, so a paper copy is the safest bet. Even with the technical difficulties, this novel transported me through time. At times, it was difficult to read, especially around the twenty-year memorial of the attack. I, too, was in middle school in 2001, and viscerally remember that fateful Tuesday.

The Places We Sleep is now available. Thank you to Ms. DuBois, Net Galley, and Holiday House Books for an advanced copy such that I could write this honest review.

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