A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.
Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.
Some people don’t think that one word can make a difference.
Sure, some words need to be around other words to make sense. They need to hang out together in a book or a song or a text message, or else you’re stuck wrinkling your nose like HUH? That doesn’t make any sense.
But some words don’t need others. They have big-time serious meaning all by themselves.
I knew that better than anyone.
Like when it came to talking about me going to middle school this year. Mom said it would be different. Dr. Patel said it would be challenging. Dad said it would be fine.
They just needed one word each to sum up what they thought a whole year would be like … and, so far, they were right.
One word nobody used, though? Mysterious.
And right now, that was the most important word of all.
I reached into my pocket and dug around until I found the folded blue paper again. Maybe it was a letter from a secret admirer or a gift certificate to Soup Palace, otherwise known as the Best Place on Earth.
Maybe it was nothing at all.
But it had to be something. It had my name on the front, after all, and was taped to my locker. I was dying to open it, but even if I found a way to read it sneakily, Ms. Sigafiss would probably see me and read it to everyone or rip it up or something. And that was if she was in a good mood.
I looked around the room, thinking about words.
They were just words, but they could change my whole life.
In fact, they already had.
Text copyright © 2016 by Abby Cooper
Quick Reasons: oh. my. penguins!; topics covered in this book: chronic illness, different family dynamics, bullying, friendship, growth and changes, self-acceptance, self-love, depression (in a more subtle way); this is mid-grade, but something I feel EVERYONE should read; snarky, sassy, stubbornly awesome character; reading from Elyse’s POV was like finding my way into myself
Huge thanks, first off, to Abby Cooper; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Publishing; and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.
And let me just say, guys, in the words of Elyse herself–HOLY HIGH HEELS, this book is so freaking great! First off, our MC: Elyse is so snarky, and darkly-humorous, and just in general a fantastic character. I had a TON of fun reading from her point of view, mostly because it was a bit like stepping into myself–from the outside. I was granted a glimpse into who I imagine a lot of people see when looking at ME…and it was hilarious, endearing, and sort of enlightening all at the same time. I stepped outside of myself for almost 300 pages…and had several things I learned the hard way, years ago, reaffirmed.
This book is SO super important, especially in regards to chronic illness. There were SO many moments I stopped and thought, “Yes. YES, exactly that!” Elyse does not just find a way to manage her disease at the end of this book–she takes it by the stubborn horns and takes charge of it. There are just so many wonderful, powerful messages in this book that I feel a large audience can empathize with and relate to–and most especially those who, like me, have had to reconfigure and rediscover themselves in the face of a chronic illness. But also, people who perhaps are not as close to this as we are every day–they, too, will be reshaped from this read, and will (hopefully!) think of the world in a much different way. Elyse’s chronic illness is not, perhaps, as “life-threatening” as others out there…but it’s just as stressful, just as disheartening, just as much a factor in her day-to-day.
Of course, a book is not a successful book without some pretty awesome side characters tagging along–and Abby Cooper wrote some EPIC personalities to match, keep up with, and challenge Elyse throughout her journey. Every character is written to come off one way…and then rediscovered in the flash of inspiration, rewritten in an instant (or, at least, poised in an entirely different way). This might be mid-grade, but there is so much more going on than whining and complaining (though that does happen, too).
I think, though, it’s the morals that really made this book for me. There are some pretty tough subjects brought up: bullying; self-acceptance; friendship; self-love. Depression, though not as strongly done, also makes an appearance. Readers are reminded, through a series of complex events, that in some way, we’re all wearing masks while in public. Readers are reminded that sometimes, the surface is ONLY that–the surface. Readers are asked to remember to always, ALWAYS look deeper–the truth isn’t always as easily revealed as the pulling up of a sleeve.
This book is, in my opinion, so super important–both for younger and older readers alike. The humor is sharp, poignant, and at times surprisingly dark. Elyse is a character both enlightening and entertaining, who brings a ton of morals and growth to herself AND her readers. I definitely recommend this read to lovers of mid-grade, contemporary, and self-discovery. This is a one-sitting read, guys–why don’t you pick it up and dive in? You’re bound to find something to love.