Cover image for A face in every window
A face in every window
Nolan, Han.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego, Calif. : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
264 pages ; 22 cm
After the death of his grandmother, who held the family together, teenage JP is left with a mentally challenged father and a mother who seems ineffectual and constantly sick, and he feels everything sliding out of control.
Reading Level:
850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 11.0 32271.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.2 17 Quiz: 20348 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



James Patrick (JP) O'Brien's once safe and secure world quickly unravels with the death of his beloved grandmother. Grandma Mary had always been the guiding hand of the O'Brien family, lovingly raising his mentally challenged Pap and allowing Mam to remain free of adult responsibility. Soon after Grandma Mary's death, Mam wins a farmhouse in an essay contest and insists on sharing her good fortune with various neighborhood outcasts. As JP sees both Pap and himself being replaced in his mother's life by others, his anger pushes his family and friends further away. It's not until he begins to understand that he must learn to accept differences, human frailties, and the randomness of life that he recaptures his happiness and begins to grow as a person.

Author Notes

HAN NOLAN is the author of several books, including Dancing on the Edge which won the National Book Award and Send Me Down a Miracle, a National Book Award finalist. She lives with her husband on the East Coast.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 9^-12. Rarely does a novel of this depth and complexity bear the moniker YA, yet A Face in Every Window is a YA novel in the true sense. It is a crazy quilt of characters all searching for themselves, struggling for identity, and begging for love and acceptance. Teenager James Patrick (JP), the narrator of the story, gradually realizes that Grandma Mary's death has left him to nurture two children: his mentally disabled father and his sheltered, irresponsible mother, who now finds herself head of the household. Overcome by memories and her husband's overwhelming grief and bewilderment, Mam resolves to start over by entering an essay contest stating why she wants to be the owner of a decaying country farmhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Chosen the winner in part because of her vision of "a house full of love and a face in every window," Mam begins to collect an entourage of lost souls like herself: Larry, a recovering drug addict; Bobbie, abused first by her father then by her boyfriend; Jerusha, a poet running away from her med-school future; and even Dr. Mike, Mam's lover/physician. JP alone sees himself as normal--the stasis amid the chaos, a state he values as security, and his rebellious mother views as stagnation. Only a writer as talented as Nolan could make this improbable story line and bizarre cast of characters not only believable but also ultimately uplifting, intriguing, and memorable. Perhaps difficult to entice initially, readers will be reluctant to have the book end, having grown along with JP, his mother, and each face in every window. --Frances Bradburn

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this sometimes outlandish, often poignant exploration of a chaotic household, Nolan (Dancing on the Edge) delectably takes the notion of "nontraditional family" to extremes. The novel opens when narrator James Patrick (JP) has just lost his grandmother. The son of a fragile mother and mentally disabled father, JP begins to realize just how much his grandmother held them together. When his childlike mother attempts to take charge, she moves them to a rambling old farmhouse that she wins in a contest for invoking a Harpo Marx quote ("When she came home from work each day she wanted to see `a face in every window' "). JP becomes increasingly distressed as his mother invites an odd assortment of outcasts, artists and musicians to live with them. Nolan takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride right along with JP, who initially holes up in his room, trying to distance himself from the unwelcome visitors, then opens his door and heart little by little as he begins to accept his new role in an ever-changing family. In addition to a supporting cast as compelling and offbeat as the main characters, the author delivers a profound and heartwarming message about the various manifestations of love. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-When 14-year-old James Patrick's grandmother dies, the small family that she kept solidly knit together comes undone. Left in the care of his fragile and impractical mother and his retarded father, the mature and highly intelligent JP feels his orderly life slipping away. When his mother returns from convalescing at the hospital, she is increasingly preoccupied with the attentions of her doctor. When she wins an old farmhouse through an essay contest, JP must steel himself and Pap through another transition fraught with emotional turmoil. Mam becomes a social magnet, attracting an odd assortment of people who take up residence in their rambling new home. JP is beset with annoyance over her free-spirited behavior and is disquieted by the crowded living arrangements. Pap's love for his wife and son remains solid and unconditional, yet his intuition alerts him to the shifting relationships, and his vulnerability and innocence deepens JP's despair. Mam takes a trip to Switzerland with the shadowy Dr. Mike, but returns early and announces that she's pregnant. JP confronts the man, who suddenly, and quite tellingly, is no longer in the picture. The teen then confronts himself, making a far more satisfying discovery. Revealed through JP's eyes, the story engages readers and leads them to accept the reality and prevalence of human frailties, allowing for mistakes and best intentions gone awry. They will applaud the young man as he gains tolerance for the complications of family life with all of its imperfections and inexplicable tangle of emotions. Nolan has used her adroit writing skills to show the pathos of unusual circumstance within everyday lifestyles.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.