In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


copyright date: August 2007
primarily marketed for: young adult (7th grade up)

Bounce by Natasha Friend has sat on my shelf for years.  Because it is nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award this February, I finally picked it up and cracked open the cover.  And, boy, am I glad I did.  In its pages I not only discovered reasons to laugh and reasons to get choked up, I also discovered a new favorite author.  Since reading Bounce, I have been on a mission to read all of Natasha Friend’s books.

Bounce is the story of a girl named Evyn , who, although her mother died years ago, is not ready to see her father move on.  While she and her brother were away at camp for the summer, her father has met a new woman and plans to marry her.  To make matters worse, Evyn’s future stepmom has 6 children for Evyn and her brother to embrace as siblings. 

With hilarious scenes that made me laugh out loud (even when I was reading in public) and an honest voice that made me tear up by tugging at some universal emotions, Bounce is a book that has wide appeal.  It is a book about loss, about growing up, about sibling relationships, about romance, about seeing parents as real people, about family, about moving, about dealing with change.  It is a book about being human. 

copyright date: August 2004
primarily marketed for: young adult (6th grade up)

Perfect by Natasha Friend is the story of Isabelle Lee.  Like the protagonist in Bounce, Isabelle is dealing with the loss of a parent—in this case, her father.  The loss is more recent and although Isabelle is struggling to come to terms with what it means for her life, her mother’s reluctance to deal with the loss is an even bigger burden. 

When Isabelle’s little sister catches her throwing up and tattles, Isabelle is forced to participate in group therapy with other teens who suffer from bulimia.  Much to Isabelle’s surprise, she arrives at the group to find Ashley, the most popular girl from school.  Isabelle has always thought of Ashley as perfect. By uncovering the secrets behind that perfection, Isabelle begins to transform herself.

Although a much softer story about a teen with an eating disorder than Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, Friend pulls no punches here.  The details of the disease are graphically described and the therapy is portrayed realistically.  There are no easy fixes and yet Isabelle’s story is a story of struggle and hope.

copyright date: May 2012
primarily marketed for: young adult (high school)

My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend is the first of her books I’ve read that is truly meant for high school.  However it is laced with insight and ethical dilemmas that should be thought through in the safety of the vicarious experiences literature can provide long before you are ever faced with choices like these. 

At the start of My Life in Black and White readers find out Lexi has been in a terrible car accident resulting in major reconstruction of her face.  During her recovery, Lexi finds that it is only in looking back at her past that she is able to see how to navigate the unknowns of the future and ultimately move on. 

The situations described here are edgy, but the raw honesty of teenage life is necessary to provide the truth needed to convey powerful messages about beauty, self-worth, romantic relationships, and friendship. 

I recently read in a review of Perfect from Booklist that Natasha Friend, “elevates what could have been just another problem novel to a truly worthwhile read.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  My Life in Black and White is another example of Friend’s ability to elevate real life issues to new level of meaning. 

1 comment:

  1. I read Perfect a couple of years ago and rated it 5 out of 5 stars. I just added these other 2 to my EVERGROWINGWILLNEVERREADALLOFTHEM TBR list. :)