Paperquake: A Puzzle Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Paperquake: A Puzzle

Violet follows a trail of old letters and diary entries dislodged during minor earthquakes to discover a love triangle story that happened many years ago in an old building in San Francisco that her parents are renovating. Violet is the third of a triplet of sisters who has a weak heart and a fear of earthquakes that is at odds with the place she lives in – San Francisco. Because she's prone to having bad health, her two sisters, Rose and Jasmine, are very protective over her, to the point of embarrassment. The story begins with Violet getting a school assignment to write about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. As the assignments are being doled out, an actual earthquake rocks the classroom and Violet has a vision of little girls escaping out of the wreckage which causes her to scream. When she comes to, she is embarrassed as since she is a native San Franciscan, she should not be afraid of a small earthquake to the point of screaming.
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Later that day, their father and mother, who run a florist business, announce that they've expanded to another store and they will need the girls to help clean the place out so that it can be made ready for business. The next day, the triplets wake up bright and early and make their way to the old building that their parents purchased. Rose and Jasmine immediately become preoccupied by some boys who are lingering at the front of the building while Violet, being more introverted, puts herself to work. As she cleans out the building, she discovers a letter addressed to “Poor Baby V” who appears to be a sickly girl with twin sisters eerily similar sounding to Violet's own life. The letters are apparently written by her lover, a man named Hal. The coincidences are baffling. After another minor earthquake, Violet discovers another letter, proving to her own sisters that she wasn't making up the letters to get their attention. The sisters are intrigued by the letters and the coincidences and want to help Violet learn more about these lovers from the past.

Later on, as the girls are exploring the San Francisco Market, Violet gets separated from her sisters. To try to find them, she climbs on top of a mailbox and calls out their names. She attracts the attention of Sam, one of the boys who was hanging around the building earlier. Sam helps her locate her sisters. The next day, Violet and her Dad explore the cellar of the old building and Violet finds an old suitcase containing documents pertaining to the Hat Shop the building used to be. In the suitcase, Violet finds a diary entry that tells of some tragic circumstance that results in someone's death – Violet suspects it might be referring to Baby V's death. A few days later, at the Academy of Sciences, Violet finds another letter in an exhibit again addressed to Baby V from Hal. Violet steals the letter to examine it closer.

Violet decides to tell her best friend Beth about what she has discovered. She thinks that the events described in the letters may end up happening to her, even though the letters were written decades ago. When Rose and Jasmine find out that Violet stole a letter, they make a huge fuss and Violet tells them she intends to return it right away. At the Academy of Science, Rose goes off to return the letter while Violet learns that there are in fact lots of items donated from people moving into old houses and discovering old things in their attic. Violet learns that the hat shop was owned by a family with the last name, Stowe. One of the museum heads tells Violet she can take one of the old ledger books as they don't have any special reason to include it in their exhibit.

The back of the ledger contains more diary entries from a mysterious woman who works in the Hat Shop, doing the ledgers and taking care of the ailing Baby V. The woman is in love with Hal however Hal has only eyes for "V". Apparently, V has strange visions of things to come and will often warn her sisters or Hal about her visions if they are involved. Throughout the course of this series of diary entries, it is explained that V has a heart condition and her health is failing. After reading the diary entries, Violet and her sisters wonder if the letters and entries are somehow magical as there are so many parallels with the events described and the events transpiring in their current time. Violet even wonders whether someone is out to murder her like she suspects the companion did to V. Her and her sisters call the Academy of Science to find out who donated the letter and the ledgers and find out it is a woman with the last name Lauer.

By some strange coincidence, when they go to the Lauer residence, they find that Mrs. Lauer is Sam's mother. They learn from Mrs. Lauer that she herself received the ledger and letters from Miss Stowe during a yard sale. Miss Stowe had already moved away to a nursing home, however, Mrs. Lauer remembers that Miss Stowe was the eldest of the Stowe family and had a twin sister as well as an older sister who died young. The sisters want to meet Miss Stowe but Mrs. Lauer tells them the old lady passed away a few years ago. As they leave, Sam slips a wad of paper into Violet's hand. Violet discovers it's another diary entry. After reading it, she learns that the diary writer's name is Laela and Baby V is Verity Stowe. From the diary entry, it sounds like Verity passed away in her sleep and Laela ended up marrying Hal. Violet still feels like some information is missing, however, and she is convinced that her life is still at risk. Later on, Violet develops some independence, as she demands to have her own room and for her parents and sisters to stop fussing and babying her. For the Halloween dance, she even musters up the courage to ask Sam to come with her.

One day, she discovers another diary entry in an old history textbook which had the name Hal Emerson scrawled in it. This diary entry is from Laela and she writes how she dreamed that a terrible earthquake shakes a golden bridge. The creepy thing is that Violet had a similar dream, as well. She shares this information with her sisters and tells them that she thinks a really bad earthquake is going to hit San Francisco. At the Halloween dance, Violet finds out that her teacher, Mr. Koch, is the grandson of Hal and Laela. Mr. Koch tells Violet that he has a letter written from Verity to Hal that might interest Violet. In the letter, Verity tells Hal that she and him can never marry because she is so frail and close to death but Hal must marry Laela, instead, who is in love with him.

Violet checks the date and time of the diary entry when Laela has the dream about the golden gate bridge and the earthquake. She now strongly believes that tomorrow at noon, which is the same date as the diary entry, will be the day San Francisco is hit by a devastating earthquake. The next day, Violet desperately tries to convince her family not to go anywhere near the gold gate bridge. She even makes an anonymous phone call to the police to tell them there is a bomb on the bridge as a way to make sure no one is on the bridge when the earthquake hits. Sure enough, at the predicted time, the earthquake hits. During the earthquake, Violet has a vision of someone, either Verity or Laela. After the quake the figure disappears. After the earthquake everyone is amazed that Violet's prediction came true. They are also amazed that someone happened to report a bomb threat on the golden gate bridge - this person is a hero! Her sisters suspect it was Violet's doing. The earthquake dislodged a final ledger which Violet and her sisters read and discover that Laela forged a letter to Hal so that it looked like it was from Verity – it was the same letter where Verity asks Hal to forget about her and marry Laela instead. Violet realizes that maybe the ghost of Laela was asking for some sort of forgiveness in leaving behind all these clues for her and her sisters to discover but she decides not to let the spirits move on and not to tell Mr. Koch the truth about his grandmother.
Best part of story, including ending: I like that the story was written with lots of snippets of letters, diary entries and news clippings and that the girls had to piece everything together like a putting together a puzzle that spans through history.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene was when Violet climbed up onto a mailbox to look for her sisters and Sam appears, climbs up on the mailbox and hollers along with her. It was just a bit of an absurd scene but humorous, as well.

Opinion about the main character: I like that Violet, who begins the story as a timid, introverted girl, ends up gaining confidence in herself as well as courage. At the beginning of the story, she was always trying to be like her healthier sisters as she hated being the odd member of the triplet that didn't look like the others. By the end of the story, she was embracing her differences.

The review of this Book prepared by Sharon C. a Level 12 Black-Throated Green Warbler scholar

Chapter Analysis of Paperquake: A Puzzle

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1900-1920's Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book War/Revolt/Disaster on civilians    -   Yes Conflict:    -   Big storm/earthquake Unmarried Love Triangle?    -   Yes Singles Fooling Around    -   One Man Two Women

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   California

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Kathryn Reiss Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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