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Book review: Utah author's 'Paper Chains' explores difficult topics with gentleness and great storytelling

"PAPER CHAINS," by Elaine Vickers, HarperCollins, $16.99, 302 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

Utah author Elaine Vickers' second middle-grade novel, "Paper Chains," is a beautifully written story about the power of friendship and how friends can offer comfort and support when families cannot.

After moving to Boston from Utah, Katie and Ana became best friends, though they come from diverse backgrounds.

Katie was adopted from a Russian orphanage at a young age and has to undergo a lot of medical testing because of a heart transplant she received when she was little. She hasn't mentioned either to Ana, partially afraid that talking about it will somehow destroy the perfect family she has now. She has grown increasingly curious about her birth parents but is afraid asking her parents about them would be hurtful.

Ana's family is in the midst of adjusting after her dad left, and she thinks she's the one who has to hold it all together, including caring for her younger brother, who gets bullied by older kids at school. She worries that her family will never be complete and together again unless she takes action.

While Katie longs for the fearless adventurous attitude Ana possesses, Ana is desperate to regain the solidity that Katie's family has.

A lengthy visit from Ana's Babushka — Ana's grandmother on her dad's side — complicates Ana and Katie's friendship as Katie bonds with Babushka. With Katie still hiding the truth about her family and her heart transplant and with tension of misunderstandings rising, their friendship hangs in the balance.

Vickers explores the complexities of family with gentleness and care, while not minimizing the seriousness of situations like adoption and broken families. The beautiful insights can provide hope and comfort to children who might not have the perfect family or life, while also showing the power of friendship and love within family. "Paper Chains" has a sweet friendship link to Vickers's previous novel, "Like Magic."

"Paper Chains" tackles difficult topics but does not contain any questionable material. There are scenes of bullying and struggles with depression, but these are handled in a way that is appropriate for the book's target age level. This book is enjoyable for all ages but is specifically suited for middle-grade readers ages 8-12.

If you go ...

What: "Paper Chains" launch party with Elaine Vickers

When: Tuesday, Oct. 17, 6 p.m.

Where: Bulloch Drug, 91 N. Main, Cedar City

Web: Search "Open house — Book signing for Elaine Vickers" on Facebook

Wendy Jessen is a regular contributor for and does media reviews. Blog/website: for victims of sexual abuse. Twitter: @WendyJessen Email: wendyjessen26@gmail