Cleveland Potts needs to leave her home in Sassafras, Florida, pronto. She can hardly bear to stay in a place where one of her best friends snubs her, her mom and sister work extra hard just to get by, and every day reminds her that her dad is in prison. So Cleveland hatches a plan to go to the American School in Paris, where it seems that everything will be cool and exciting and trés chic. She’s sure that if she can just check off everything on her list to prepare, she’ll be able to make it.
The Paris Project by Donna Gephart shows the ripple effect that occurs when a parent is imprisoned. Everything about Cleveland’s life changes. Her mom works more, some old friends shun her, others kids tease her, plus, part of the reason her dad is in jail is because he stole from her and others. She’s not sure how she’ll have a relationship with him in the future. Moving away to get a fresh start seems like the only way she can face the mountain of obstacles and emotional hurdles she faces every day.
As Cleveland makes her way through her list, she discovers a lot about her inner fortitude. She also comes face-to-face with her own prejudgments about others. The Paris Project is a great way to start a conversation about friendship, trust in the face of betrayal, communicating honestly, and more. Gephart writes about these and other issues without sounding preachy or instructional, but in a way that tweens and teens are likely to relate. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 13.
The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.