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Literature / The Pinballs

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"Harvey and me and Thomas J are just like pinballs. Somebody put in a dime and pushed a button and we came out."

The Pinballs is a childrens' novel by Betsy Byars, telling the story of three foster children who find themselves sharing a home. Carlie, an abuse survivor, Harvey, a cripple who was run over by his drink-driving father and Thomas J, who was abandoned as a baby.

This novel provides examples of:


  • Abusive Parents: Carlie's stepfather. He hit her so hard he gave her a concussion.
    • Also Harvey's father.
  • The Alcoholic: Harvey's father
  • The Cynic: Carlie, at first
  • Doorstop Baby: Thomas J, as a baby, was left in front of a farmhouse belonging a pair of older twin sisters named Thomas and Jefferson (their father named them after his favorite president). The sisters took him in and didn't report him to the authorities and it isn't until they both break their hips and end up in the hospital that Thomas J is discovered.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Turns up in Carlie's backstory, implied to have saved her life.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Carlie is described as foul mouthed, but as a book aimed at 8-12 year olds, the worst she gets to say is "Bug off".
  • Pinball Protagonist: Discussed. Carlie insists that they are this, thrown around by forces they are powerless against in a world that doesn't care about them. On the last page of the book she finally admits she's wrong.
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Example of: