A Place Apart


Book: A Place Apart

Author: Paula Fox

Jacket Illustrator: Robert Sabin

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux, republished 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0374359850 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0374359857 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0374458683 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0374458685 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 12-15

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: General youth fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Fox, Paula.  A Place Apart (Published in 1980 by Farrar Straus and Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York City, NY  10003).  Thirteen, turning fourteen, year old Victoria (Tory) Finch, a freshman in high school, loses her father, a high school principal, who dies of a heart attack four days after Thanksgiving.  Shortly after her father’s death, Victoria and her mother Lois struggle to regain a sense of order and security, so they sell their old house in Boston, MA, and move to a small village outside of Boston called New Oxford.  Elizabeth Marx becomes Tory’s best friend, but Tory meets an older teenage boy named Hugh Todd, a junior who is wealthy and sixteen. Even though he is a snob, she becomes infatuated with Hugh as he runs the school theater club and asks her to enlarge a scene that she writes for an English class into a play that he wants to direct for the senior graduation play.  

     Then Tory’s mother decides to marry Lawrence Grady and move back Boston.  How does Tory react to that?  Does the play ever get finished and performed?  And what happens between Tory and Hugh?   There is no bad language in the book.  Several references to smoking cigarettes occur, even by one of Tory’s fellow students (Stanley Bender, Hugh’s friend and editor of the school paper), and Tory is allowed to drink a glass of Chianti at an Italian restaurant during a family holiday meal.  My basic question is, “What is the purpose of this story?”  It won some Literary Awards.  It was a National Book Award Finalist for Children’s Hardcover Fiction (1981), and it was given the National Book Award for Children’s Paperback Fiction (1983). 

      Also, several reviewers praised it highly.  One wrote, “This is another excellent title by Paula Fox.”  Another said, “It was written beautifully and the characters were developed wonderfully.”  Someone else noted, “I consider it one of the best books I’ve ever read.”  Still another wrote, “It’s a beautiful and painful work of art—I cherish the book and consider finding it a precious gift.”  And one other person said, “It had such a profound effect on me.”  Maybe I’m missing something here, but perhaps it’s just a gal-type thing that’s totally foreign to my “guy” experiences growing up.  I will say that Tory learns a valuable but painful life lesson about not allowing oneself to be used by someone else just to bolster his (or her) ego.  Author Paula Fox won the Newbery Medal in 1974 for The Slave Dancer.  

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