The author, Rebecca Stead, is already a Newbery winner for When You Reach Me, and I wouldn't be surprised if this book is a contender for a shiny sticker next year. I enjoyed it far more than her previous books. Something about this one just spoke to me and the weaving of friendships and love interests was masterful. We are filled with loving relationships of all types in our lives and examining their connections is incredibly powerful.
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Author: Rebecca Stead
Target: Grades 6 and up
What this book is about:
Told from alternating perspectives, this book follows the 7th grade friendship of Bridge, Tab and Emily. They are managing their friendship as boys enter the picture and their own interest levels are are distinctly different. Can they like a boy and not be ready to “like” a boy. Can they manage social media when everything they do can come back to haunt them. We also follow their friend Sherm as he figures out his relationship with his grandfather who just left his grandmother after a lifetime together and we follow an unnamed narrator as she tries to understand how her childhood friendships are unravelling. She is struggling to create loving relationships when she doesn’t always do the right thing. Somehow these three stories come together to create a book with love at the center.
Why I love this book:
I have always enjoyed Rebecca Stead, but this book was my favorite so far. As I was trying to summarize the book, I was amazed at how much she developed her themes and characters while the story felt effortless. It really is an example of quiet simplicity with richly developed ideas about friendship and love.
One of the issues the book deals with is texting questionable photos. As Emily tries to figure out her relationship with a boy Patrick in a seventh grade world, it felt all too real. Meanwhile, Bridge can’t imagine not spending time with Sherm, but doesn’t really feel ready to have a boyfriend, and Tab is completely under the spell of her new teacher who preaches to the girls that they are not objects. I could see so much of girls this age in these characters.
I could also relate to the unnamed character as she clings to friendships of the past that lead her to make unkind choices in the present. These teens just want to be liked and how they manage that within their own levels of confidence was a timely reminder to me.
Who this book is for:
I would put this book squarely in middle school, even if you have an advanced reader. The issues are appropriate for sixth grade and up and are deftly handled, but for younger kids, they just aren’t emotionally there yet. The book will also lean more towards girls. We do get Sherm’s perspective, but I don’t think that is enough to bring the story home for most boys.
In Rebecca Stead’s last three books, it feels as thought the story leads to a surprise reveal at the end. Because of this structure, I found myself at times trying to guess the end instead of just enjoying the beauty of the book. Most kids will not notice this, but for me, I would have liked to see a little bit different structure to the story.
To purchase this book:
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