J.R. RICE at Books Inc. Berkeley

Author image of JR Rice and cover photo of his book Broken Pencils

Join Books Inc. Berkeley in welcoming local author JR Rice for a reading and book discussion of his novel Broken Pencils. 

Jonah Tarver, a troubled Oakland teenager grappling with his parents' troubled marriage, his own mental disorder, and the weight of his best friend's death, embarks on a desperate quest to find meaning in life.

On his eighteenth birthday, coinciding with his Senior prom, Jonah, along with his girlfriend Taniesha, his best friend Trevon, and a group of peers, spirals into a night of reckless indulgence in drugs and alcohol in the vibrant city of San Francisco. As tensions escalate and emotions run high, Jonah finds himself thrust into a gripping twelve-hour journey through the dark underbelly of San Francisco's nightlife, forever altering his perception of the world. Will Jonah uncover the purpose he so desperately seeks, or will he discover that life, like broken pencils, may have no point?

"I highly recommend "Broken Pencils," and not just for a young adult audience. I think that everyone who reads this book will put it down with a heavy heart and a deeper understanding of what many people go through when grappling with bipolar disorder. J.R. Rice is a fantastic writer and I'm hoping to read more of his work." — Richard Bist, ReaderViews Kids

"J.R. Rice's Broken Pencils is more than a story of a teenager's life; it's a reflection of how things from the past can unfold in a single day...At its core, the novel grapples with the theme of brokenness, portraying it not as a defect to be mended but as an intrinsic part of the human experience." - Karen Almeida, Literary Titan

"Broken Pencils tackles a sensitive and difficult topic in a meaningful way that provides food for thought and allows one to become introspective about mental illness and the difficulties faced by those who live with it." — Jennie More, Readers Favorite

"Filled with youthful exuberance, raucous partying, vicious truths, and heartbreaking volatility, Broken Pencils is a novel that aims for poignancy, targeting an age group where many struggle to find meaning." — R.C. Gibson, IndiesToday

"Rice delves into the complex life and psyche of Jonah, a young Black man suffering from mental health issues and trauma following the death of his best friend....A gripping coming of age story and a skilful exploration of grief, the human psyche and broken relationships." — Beth Thompson, Readers' Choice Book Awards

"Rice weaves together moments of heartache, triumph, and introspection with such vividness that it feels like peering into real lives rather than fictional characters. This authenticity deepens the emotional impact felt by the reader and truly makes this book a must read." — Literary Global

"In this literary work, Rice boldly explores the profound impact of losing a loved one and how parents' constant fighting can disrupt their children's happiness...The book underscores the vital importance of seeking help to heal mentally and find inner peace, as carrying pain for too long can impede progress." — Amanda Hanson, The US Review of Books

"Broken Pencils is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of human relationships, the enduring impact of family dynamics, and the redemptive power of friendship and self-discovery." — Neena H. Brar, The Prairies Book Reviews

"Broken Pencils is a singular feat of narrative momentum. Dauntless insight and camera angle dance sharply producing a new geometry of storytelling." — Tongo Eisen-Martin, Poet laureate of San Francisco, California, activist, and author

"Broken Pencils pulls you down a complex river of identity, coming-of-age, mental illness, and issues of class and race in a way that taps into the universal experience of being human, all while couched in the skilled prose of a literary masterpiece." —M.M. Chouinard, USA Today bestselling author of The Dancing Girls

"J.R. Rice drives the reader headlong through the looking glass of Jonah Tarver's soul — and oh what ride. It is both hypnotic and often hallucinatory, but ultimately a journey of devastating truth." — Andrew L. Roberts, Author of

"Tears for Shulna" "Compelling and vulnerable, Broken Pencils is a poetic peek inside what it means to feel surrounded and alone at the same time. It juxtaposes the safety and simplicity of childhood against the illusion of freedom that adulthood brings." — Angela Drew, Author of ElderBerry Wine

"In this visceral odyssey through a single night, the reader is enveloped in Jonah's gut-wrenching journey toward clarity and acceptance...If there ever was a flawed hero to root for, it's Rice's modern-day Odysseus, Jonah." — Rosa del Duca, Author of Breaking Cadence

"The action of the book is full-throttle, but the story is also gripping because of Rice's multi-layered storytelling. It's rare that a book achieves this intensity of suspense and is also philosophically and psychologically resonant." — Heidi Kasa, Award-Winning author of "The Beginners"

"Author JR Rice has indeed illuminated a subject matter that deserves to be revisited. Starting with an important question, What can we do as a village to raise and protect the Jonah's of the world?" — Monique McCoy, Author of Poetry's Daughter

"J.R Rice deftly uses Langston Hughes' work as both a structural and spiritual template...Rice emerges with his own voice as a life affirming force and a literary badass!" — Dr. Mtafiti Imara, Professor of Music, CSUSM, and album composer

"As he tries to make sense of his life, Jonah rides through Rice's use of metaphors, poem excerpts, song lyrics, and the never ending quote, 'Still no cure for the common birthday.' Rice's use of imagination makes for a fantastical tale of what it means to be alive." — Leticia Garcia Bradford, editor and publisher at MoonShine Star Co

"Rice's writing pulls you into the edgy emotions of a young man caught between a strict and successful father, freewheeling friends, and his inability to shed past sorrow and make sense of his future. Broken Pencils catapults you into the complex emotional rhythms of a teen on the cusp of adulthood." — Tish Davidson, Author of From War Room to Living Room

"Broken Pencils is an in-your-face category five hurricane of written words. A beautifully written, yet tragic and gritty reminder that we are the choices we make." — Tony Aldarondo, Author of Poet on the Run

"Broken Pencils tackles youth and mental illness with an authenticity and sincerity that lingers with you long after you've finished reading." — Jason Baum, Author of "Rocket"


J.R Rice had always been captivated by the power of words and their ability to inspire, motivate and transform lives. As a young man, he knew that he wanted to make a difference in the world through his writing and his ability to connect with people. After receiving his B.A in Creative Writing and an English Education teaching credential from California State University of Long Beach, J.R set out to pursue his dreams. He traveled abroad to Greece, where he had the honor of being mentored by the renowned author, George Crane. It was there that he honed his skills and developed his unique voice, which he would later use to inspire and empower countless others. His novella, Broken Pencils earned the 2024 Literary Titan Gold Book Award, the Literary Global Gold Award, 2024 Hawthorne Prize finalist, 2024 Independent Author Awards finalist in both Best African-American Literature and Best Debut Fiction, and 2024 International Firebird Book Award Third place winner in Best African-American Literature and Best New Fiction. In addition to his writing accolades, he earned the Rookie of the Year award at the 2005 National Collegiate Poetry Slam in Philadelphia. He was a Semi-Finalist in the 2023 Berkeley Poetry Slam Finals. He is the host and curator of SOCIAL SATURDAYS artist showcase in Oakland. He currently resides and teaches in the Bay Area.

Event date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2024 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Books Inc. Berkeley
1491 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
Broken Pencils By J. R. Rice Cover Image
ISBN: 9781957893563
Availability: In Stock Now - Click Title to See Store Inventory. Please allow up to 48-hours for Curbside Pickup orders to be processed.
Published: Jonathan Rice - June 11th, 2024