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It’s hard to leave a place that means so much, that’s filled with happy memories. But in the end, it’s not the room that matters . . . it’s the people,Joy. A Soft Place to Land

A Soft Place to Land

by Janae Marks
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Janae Marks’ novel follows twelve-year-old Joy as she and her family move from their house into a much smaller apartment building. After her dad loses his job, their family can no longer afford a lot of things that they previously were able to, and this only adds to Joy’s sadness and confusion about living somewhere new. Joy admits that she feels “sad that my family had to move.” 

One of the major themes in this book is families facing financial struggles and how children perceive it. Because of their new financial difficulties, Joy notices that her parents are arguing a lot. When Joy overhears her parents arguing, Joy becomes extremely upset and she feels she needs to reassure her younger sister, Malia, that her parents are not going to separate.  Joy’s parents continue to argue, and after her father spends the night away “to get some space,” Joy worries that they will get a divorce.  

Because of how open she is about her feelings and struggles with change, Joy is an extremely empathetic character. At first, Joy is focused on how much she misses her family’s previous home. Joy explains, “I wish we were back in our real home, where Mom and Dad got along . . . I wish I’d known that last Christmas would be our last in the house.” However, through making friends with Nora, another girl who lives in the building, Joy is able to make new memories. For instance, Joy and Nora meet up with other kids who live in the apartment complex to play board games in a place they call “the Hideout;” this time with other kids makes Joy feel included. Joy says, “I’m so glad I have the Hideout now, too, and these four friends.” 

Joy learns an important lesson about how even our closest friends can secretly be going through a rough time. For example, Nora appears to be fine on the surface, and Joy tells Nora, “I told you what was going on with me, and I thought you’d talk to me about your stuff, too.” Nora reveals, “I miss my dead mom, okay? I wish she was here, but she’s not, and she’s never going to come back.” Joy realizes after their fight that, “It was wrong of me to expect you to tell me about your problems, just because I told you about mine . . . I promise I’ll be there for you, but if you don’t want to talk about something, we won’t.” This important realization makes both girls feel more confident in their friendship. Nora and Joy’s friendship leaves readers with a positive outlook on new environments and the possibility of making friends in a new place. 

Overall, Marks’ novel excellently showcases Joy’s changing perspective on her family’s move. Initially admitting that she is frustrated with their move to the smaller apartment, Joy explains, “I hate that so much is out of my control.” This allows many readers to sympathize with Joy, even if they have not gone through a similar situation. Plus, many young readers will relate to the overwhelming feelings that come with big life changes.  

The ultimate focus of this novel is the importance of family and friendship. As Joy says, it is important to recognize that even when you are struggling, “You are not alone.” Joy’s growing friendship with Nora is central to the book and highlights how readers can find happiness and friendship in new situations. Joy’s realization at the end of the novel leaves readers with an important message: “I still miss our house, and our memories there, but what made it feel like home were my parents and sister.” Joy recognizes that friends and family are what shape her happy memories, not necessarily the specific place where she is.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 


  • While walking her neighbor’s dog, Ziggy, Joy loses her grip on his leash, and he runs away. Ziggy is lost for several days and is ultimately found, but not in good health. “There is Ziggy, lying down on a bean bag chair next to the bookshelf. He looks weak, and like he can’t get up . . . he’s dehydrated.” Ultimately, Ziggy is brought to the vet and gets the treatment he needs to get better. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 


  • None 


  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 
Other books by Janae Marks
Other books you may enjoy

It’s hard to leave a place that means so much, that’s filled with happy memories. But in the end, it’s not the room that matters . . . it’s the people,Joy. A Soft Place to Land

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