The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons

The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons. Delacorte Press, 2022. 9780593309759

Rating:  (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Jamison Deever (or J. as he is more commonly known), a junior in high school,  is grieving over the loss of his mother nearly two years ago. J. admits she was not only his mother but his best friend and ‘translator.’  They both were born with synesthesia; in J. and his mother’s case, this means they see words in colors.  His mom also got him hooked on photography via a book featuring Dorothea Lange’s black and white photos. Lange photographed her most famous image, “Migrant Mother”, not far from J.’s hometown of Vista Grande. As a way of dealing with his loss, J. goes out nearly every night and photographs people at 9:09 pm. 

This novel is about losing a loved one and the grief that follows. It is also about friendships, families, and love.  J. promised his mom that he would look after his younger sister, Ollie. Now that she’s a freshman at his central California high school, they become closer though they still argue at times. J. starts out friendless (another casualty of his mother’s death), but soon he bonds with Seth who helps him create a website featuring his photographs. There are also two young women in the mix, one that J. has had a crush on for years (Kennedy) and a new student, a girl who is known as AK, like the weapon. The relationships between J. and the two girls are depicted in a positive and realistic way.

Every character is important to the story, even the immature boys who J. sometimes sits with at lunch in the cafeteria. They do add a bit of comic relief to the plot. J.’s dad spends his time tinkering in the garage restoring antique machines. But he is there for his kids, always. It was refreshing to see a sensitive and realistic depiction of a parent in a YA book. 

At one point the main characters attend a Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) party at a friend’s house. The true meaning behind the celebration is thoughtfully explained and it inspires J. later in the story. This was a wonderful way to introduce readers to a significant celebration in Mexican culture, and not associate it with Halloween, as it normally happens.

There is underage drinking, but it is not glamorized nor heavily emphasized.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? There is joy and sorrow in this novel, and at times the writing is quite beautiful. Fans of realistic fiction will love this book.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries need to get this book.

Where would you shelve it? Young Adult fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Absolutely!

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Maria Touet, Malden Catholic High School, Malden, MA

Date of review: November 22, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, *Young Adult, Family, Grief, Mark H. Parsons, Photography, Realistic fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.