The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Thank you Netgally for letting me read The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the book synopsis.

"Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him."

My Reflections

Lincoln and his mother have moved from a small town in Southern United States. In this new place, Lincoln has a lot to learn about being human, connecting with other people, and growing up.

Lincoln is a boy with secrets. He doesn't want anyone to know that he spends his time after school at Brookside, an old folks home. He doesn't want anyone to know why he and his mother left their old home. He doesn't want anyone to know what his life was like before now. Lincoln is a writer. It's one of those things he keeps hidden but it's also how he protects himself from other people.

Readers will cheer for Lincoln as he forges many new relationships. At school there is a group of girls he shares a table with. There is Kandi, a girl who seems to be always wanting to know his business. Then there are the people at Brookside, a home for old people who are suffering from dementia and memory loss. Mrs. Graves, his elderly neighbor is another person he gets to know. Eventually, Lincoln's relationship with his mother also evolves.

One of the things I really appreciate about Van Draanen is how she is able to bring social issues into great fiction. Lincoln is being bullied by another boy on the bus. Trying to ignore him doesn't work. What does work is when other kids step up to stop it, just like in real life. There is the homeless vet who hangs out around their apartment. And then there is Kandi, who seems to be irritating but has her own story to tell. All of this reminds readers to dig deep to understand what's inside of other people.

I like this book a lot. Van Draanen combines laugh out loud humor and heartbreak into one fabulous narrative. I appreciate that these adults, from the teachers to the mother and the workers at Brookside are fine people. I like that these other kids are mostly kind and good. I love how she brings social issues, like the ones with the veteran and the old people who never get any visitors into our vision. I was able to make personal connections to this since my mother lived among people like those who live at Brookside. It's a very lonely place for many people.

Margaret Mead once said something to the effect of, You know a civilization is in decline when old people and young people are separated. Thank you Wendelin Van Draanen for showing us what we miss.

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