The 9:09 Project
Mark H. Parsons
Published November 15, 2022
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About The 9:09 Project
A thoughtful exploration about finding oneself, learning to hope after loss, and recognizing the role that family, friends, and even strangers can play in the healing process if you are open and willing to share your experience with others.
It has been two years since his mom’s death, and Jamison, his dad, and his younger sister seem to be coping, but they’ve been dealing with their loss separately and in different ways. When Jamison has to be reminded of his mother’s birthday, on the day of her birthday, he worries that his memory of her is slipping away, and he is forced to reckon with the passing of time. To help make sense of it, he picks up his camera—the Nikon his mother gave him a few years back.
Jamison begins to take photos of ordinary people on the street, at the same time and place each night. As he focuses his lens on the random people who cross his path, Jamison begins to see the world in a deeper way. His endeavor turns into a school project, and then into something more. Along with his new outlook, Jamison forges new and unexpected friendships at school. But more importantly, he’s able to revive the memory of his mother, and to connect with his father and younger sister once again.
I talk a lot about how much I love sister books, but I’m not sure I talk much about how much grief processing books mean to me, too. There’s something really powerful about a story that peels back the layers and reveals truths about love and loss that we don’t talk about. This book does that so well, and so many of the statements about loss and grief really resonated with me.
So, full disclosure, the ARC that I read opens with a note from the author, so I read that first. Which means before I even read the first line of the book, I was crying. The letter is about how the author was editing this book as he was saying goodbye to his mom, who was dying of the same type of cancer Jamison’s mom died from. I can’t even imagine how incredibly difficult that must have been. Absolutely heartbreaking.
I think one of my favorite things about the story, though, is that though it’s about grief, it doesn’t take the course that I have seen some other YA novels take. Meaning, it doesn’t focus on Jamison’s former friendships and how they’ve changed because of his grief, whose fault it is, or whether they can be repaired.
We don’t really know who his friends were before his mom’s death. He’s so totally disconnected from the Before time of his life that it never comes up. What we do get to see is the fresh growth of new friendships, what those mean to him, and how he learns to trust other people with his grief and share in theirs, too.
A fair amount of the story focuses on Jamison’s photography, which I loved. I especially loved the way that the Dorothea Lange quotes at the beginning of each chapter encapsulated something that happened in that chapter. I loved seeing those connections. Jamison shares some of the technical aspects of editing photos, but context clues were enough for me to follow along. I know the photography side, so that was familiar to me, but I think it’d be easily accessible to someone who didn’t have the knowledge.
I really liked the characters, too. Not just Jamison, but his sister, Assi, and Seth, too. They each bring really interesting elements to the story, and I liked that his relationship with each of them is different.
On the whole, I would call this one a win. I think readers who enjoy books by John Green should really check this one out.
Content Notes for The 9:09 Project
Some racist and sexist statements.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Jamison is white and has synesthesia.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
A girl hints that she would like to have sex with Jamison. A girl suggests that Jamison take nude photos of her. Later she shares nude photos with him. (Pictures are not described in any detail.) A boy and a girl spend the night together. Later it’s mentioned that they had sex.
Jamison mentions that he feels his mom’s presence at times.
A group of boys at school create a list where they rank girls according to their looks on a scale of 1 to 10. Jamison and others are pretty grossed out by the whole thing. More than one student confronts them about it. Students refer to a Lebanese American girl as “AK-47”, a covert way of saying they think she’s a terrorist. Several students call this out as offensive as well, but it does happen throughout the story.
Jamison and others drink alcohol at a party. In one scene, Jamison’s father offers him a beer. (Jamison is 17.)
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