Hi everyone and welcome to my tour stop for Paradise On Fire by Jewel Parker Rhodes hosted through TBR and Beyond Tours. I’m excited to share my full, spoiler-free review of the novel for my stop on the tour.
You can check out the full schedule for the tour here.
About the BookParadise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes
on September 14, 2021
From award-winning and bestselling author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age survival tale exploring issues of race, class, and climate change Addy is haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Now, years later, Addy’s grandmother has enrolled her in a summer wilderness program. There, Addy joins five other Black city kids—each with their own troubles—to spend a summer out west. Deep in the forest the kids learn new (and to them) strange skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other for companionship and survival. But then comes a devastating forest fire… Addy is face-to-face with her destiny and haunting past. Developing her courage and resiliency against the raging fire, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Not all are saved. But remembering her origins and grandmother’s teachings, she’s able to use street smarts, wilderness skills, and her spiritual intuition to survive.
Content Warnings: Wild Fires, Parental Death
About the Author
Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.
Now she is the author of seven books for children including the New York Times bestsellers Ghost Boys and Black Brother, Black Brother. Her other books include Towers Falling, and the Louisiana Girls Trilogy: Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic. Her forthcoming novel, Paradise on Fire, will publish in September 2021. She has also published six adult novels, two writing guides, and a memoir.
Jewell has received numerous honors including the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Coretta Scott King Honor.
When she’s not writing, she’s visiting schools to talk about her books with the kids who read them, or teaching writing at Arizona State University, where she is the Piper Endowed Chair and Founding Artistic Director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.
This middle grade, ownvoices survivor story is new take on age old story. As someone who gres up with the likes of Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain, I was bitten by the wilderness fiction bug so many years ago. It’s a rush I still chase, which was what drew me to the book in the first place.
Our main character is Addy, who lost her parents to a house fire when she was a young girl. There is a lot of exploration into how this tragedy impacted Addy, the coping mechanisms she’s develops, and the trauma responses she still deals with regularly. I really appreciated this aspect of the book. I think the author handled it respectfully and sensitively.
I also didn’t connect the dots until after the fact, but I actually live near Paradise, CA and while I wasn’t living in the area when the fire happened, I do remember hearing about it and my coworkers still tell me stories about it. So that was a fun little coincidence.
The writing is sparse and efficient and I appreciated the cast of characters that surrounded Addy during the story. Sent to a wilderness survival camp, the group learns about hiking, surviving and in Addy’s case, topography The young girl in me that adored Hatchet absolutely loved these facets of the novel
I gave the book only 4? because I expected Addy and her friends surviving the fire to be a bigger part of the book. It ended up being only the last 25% of it and I was a little disappointed. However, I still think it’s a solid read for kids looking to read a good survival story or wanting to learn more about wildfires.
What About You?
Have you read Paradise on Fire? What di you think of it? Let me know in the comments!