Jars of Glass by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler

Jars of Glass
Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler
Dutton Books (2008)
ISBN 9780525479116
Reviewed by Rachael Stein (age 15) for Reader Views (11/08)

Chloe and Shana are sisters, so similar and yet so different. Chloe is the younger one, both dreamy and practical. She can’t wait until her idolized mom can come back home, because now that she’s gone, Chloe has to pick up the slack her depressed dad leaves behind him, especially in taking care of her little brother Micah. Shana, on the other hand, never wants her mom to come back even though she desperately wishes, like her sister Chloe, that things could be normal again. Each sister feels isolated in her problems, and each hides in her own way, but eventually they will realize that they are not alone in their troubles. “Jars of Glass” is the story of how these two lost girls come to accept their lives and gain some understanding of the importance of what little family they have left.

Though the plot is slow and boring at times, the end result is beautiful and unforgettable. The story is mainly about the sisters’ everyday lives as they try to deal with the absence of their mom. I enjoyed the alternate narrations from Chloe’s and Shana’s points-of view, but sometimes I felt that one sister’s turn would cut the other’s turn a little short. It sometimes felt that the story was jumping all over the place, especially when one part of the story was interrupted and never continued, but after a few of these exchanges, the smaller details were clarified and I wasn’t as confused. The plot never gets too exciting except the part about the mystery of the event that caused the sisters’ mom to be sent away, and I liked how the secret was gradually revealed, because this was the most interesting part of the story. It was a little disappointing that some of the smaller subplots weren’t fully completed, but in the end, they didn’t really matter.

I was somewhat disappointed with the characterization in “Jars of Glass.” I could never really get a clear picture of Chloe and Shana’s character except for the most obvious characteristics. I also found the sisters unusually deep thinkers for their age, but this can be easily attributed to their situation. I really enjoyed reading Chloe’s and Shana’s thoughts because they were easy to relate to and were the most realistic part of each sister. The line between the girl each sister publicly displayed and the one in her thoughts seemed strange at times. I also didn’t like Shana’s goth phase and her reasons for dressing that way; it just didn’t seem legitimate. Many of the minor characters weren’t developed well either, which was a little confusing at times.

Even though the character development was slightly lacking and the plot wasn’t too exciting, I immensely enjoyed reading “Jars of Glass.” This novel is one of those that you have to look at the bigger picture to fully appreciate. The story has such beautiful meaning about sisterhood and family, especially at the end of the novel, and this strong finish most definitely makes up for other lacking elements.

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