If only getting a new life were as easy as getting a new notebook. It's the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood - but not for Ratchet. No new schoolbag, no new clothes, and no new friends - not that she had any in the first place. She's home-schooled and she's supposed to be using her notebook for her writing assignments, but her dad never checks. She's really going to use it for her Top Secret Plan, and turn her old, recycled, freakish, friendless, motherless life into something shiny and new. This year, Ratchet is going make something change.
The most interesting part of this book was the format. Ratchet's story is told through her journal entries, each disguised as a task for her homeschooling curriculum. Free writing, plays, interviews, poetry and short notes all feature, giving the book a real sense of texture and realism. The journal entries are witty and sweetly humorous, but they thinly mask Ratchet's inherent loneliness.
The author works very hard to balance Ratchet's natural naivety with both the optimism of childhood and the shock that is coming of age and realizing all is not as well with the world as you first thought. The tone is always filled with an undercurrent of awakening and loneliness but is never overpowered by it.
I loved that Ratchet was openly proactive about making a change in her life - she knew something wasn't right and she was eager to explore, in her own bumbling, slightly sheltered way. The other characters weren't quite so exciting but I could see what their role was in the story, from the secrets kept by Ratchet's hippie/mechanic father even as the pair worked to fix cars together to the other characters Ratchet happens across in the ever-expanding bubble of her world.
At times, however, I found the book wasn't quite as believable as it could have been. I understood Ratchet's desperate need to find out about the mother she lost long ago, but the pressure she felt to change who she was as a person didn't always sit comfortably with me. The book has a very safe atmosphere and the plot is cute and heart-warming, but I would have liked more substance for the book to really have made a mark.
I really enjoyed this book. It's ideal for the older children's reader who's not quite ready to move onto young adult - it's the perfect mix of realistic issues and childhood innocence all rolled into a book with a fascinating format and a brilliant protagonist.
- This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
- Published by Sourcebooks, Inc (1 April 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1402281068