Title: Paintings From the Cave- Three Novellas
Author: Gary Paulsen
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 174
Holy crap, these stories were emotional! It was one of those books where it was really hard to stop reading, I just wanted things to be okay for these characters. Paulsen did a great job making you care about them even though the time we got with each one was so brief.
The three novellas in this collection feature good kids in awful home situations who struggle to find something to make their lives worthwhile. J lives in a horrible urban area and his best friend is pregnant after being raped by a gangbanger. He meets a man in the rapidly gentrifying area near his neighborhood who makes sculptures of people’s heads and becomes fascinated by what he does.
Jo, the protagonist in the second story, adopts three rescue dogs that become her escape from an unloving home. The three mutts fortify her against a life of sexual and emotional abuse and bullying, and they provide the catalyst for her friendship with another girl. The third story is about a boy named Jamie who lives with his older brother after escaping from an abusive homelife.
His brother supports him, but the two boys are runaways and constantly hiding from the authorities, keeping their lives small with little room for friendship. Jamie is passionate about art and is paid to draw sketches of shelter dogs. Two of these stories end happily, and one does not. I was impressed by how different each story felt from the authors and how they managed to stand on their own.
I thought that these characters would live near each other and know each other but that was not the case. I would have liked to see the characters’ lives intersect but I also understood why Paulsen wanted to keep them separate. As a dog lover, I really enjoyed seeing realistic portrayals of how meaningful relationships between humans and their dogs can be.
Gary Paulsen really loved dogs and it shows. What’s more important, though, is how much he seemed to love his characters and how much care he put into their stories. There are no easy fixes for their situations but he acutely portrays how people find ways to escape the pain of their lives, whether through art, human connection, or the love of good dogs.