Addie on the Inside



Vivacious seventh grader expresses herself in vivid poems.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This book offers a terrific example of how a narrative can be told in poetry. Families can talk about all of the issues that Addie confronts: mean gossip, name calling, bullying, speaking out, staying silent, human rights, consumerism, and so on. Ask your kids: How do you define yourself and others?

Positive messages

The author challenges readers to open their eyes, minds, and hearts and to try to really see one another -- to allow people to choose who they want to be and respect them for their choices.

Positive role models

By speaking her mind, questioning herself, and standing up for others' rights, Addie becomes the target of the mean girls' cruelty, yet she survives and grows into a stronger person who realizes she isn't who others say she is. She begins to define herself and become the person she chooses to be. Her faith in herself is badly shaken by the other kids' actions -- particularly the popular kids. But she has a few very good friends, a supportive family (including a wonderful grandmother), and a few insightful teachers. With their help, she survives and grows. 


Addie reads or hears about real violence in the news: a child bride in Kabul, Afghanistan, is disfigured; there are reports of others raped, beat, or tortured; a teenage "fangirl" stands by her "rap star man" after he hits her; a teenage girl hangs herself because of her schoolmates' merciless taunting. One section discusses the impact of death -- both of a friend's mother and of a favorite pet.


Addie has her first boyfriend, with some innocent hand-holding and kissing. Two of the boys she's friends with are openly gay, and Addie helps found the Gay and Straight Alliance at her school. She's called "lezzie" because of her involvement.


Cruel name-calling runs the gamut from silly barbs to more painful epithets, heartless teasing, and mean gossiping. Kids also derisively say that things are "so gay." One section deals with the "devaluation of the English language" and the overuse of slang terms: "omigod!" for example.


Some anti-consumerism messages: Addie struggles with wanting a pair of shoes that she actually hates just because the popular kids are wearing them. One section discusses how we use style to define ourselves.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this companion to James Howe's The Misfits and Totally Joe again deals with slightly offbeat kids trying to fit in. This time it's 13-year-old Addie, whose story is told completely in narrative poetry that poignantly captures the turmoil and confusion she faces. Themes range from learning how to stay strong and smart and sensitive in the face of taunting by "mean girls" to overbearing teachers, young love and broken hearts, and how and when to speak your mind. It also juxtaposes the painful but almost silly struggles of middle school with the atrocities that take place around the world: child brides who are raped, disfigured, and sold; battered women; a student driven to suicide by bullying. Addie helps organize the Gay and Straight Alliance in support of her openly gay friends and dares to hold a Day of Silence even when it's nixed by the principal. 

Parents say

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What's the story?

Tall 13-year-old Addie Carle has always been a strong, smart, and sensitive girl who has felt sure of herself and her place in the world ... until now. Her seventh-grade year is a kind of \"purgatory,\" and through narrative verse, she reveals her inner thoughts and feelings -- as well as the familiar markings of a very tough year: She's the first one to raise her hand in class and always has an opinion, but that's not going over well with the other kids. She worries about human rights and other world issues while most of the other kids seem like they couldn't care less. She hates the mean girls but feels their power. She endures teasing about her boyish looks, her independent spirit -- and even gossip about why a popular older boy would choose her to be his girlfriend. And, hardest of all, she begins to question herself and who she is.

Is it any good?


Addie's voice is straightforward and true, and the author's poems vividly and sensitively capture her pain and confusion. While the problems she struggles with are familiar, the book is one of a kind, both in its artistry and in the thoughtful questions -- and lessons -- it imparts. Howe challenges his readers to open their eyes, minds, and hearts and to try to really see one another, to allow people to choose who they want to be and respect them for their choices. (He writes, "what is it we see when we look at each other, especially at those who are different from us?")


Readers will be moved by the small story of Addie's fight to become the person she wants to be -- and be left with plenty of big questions to ponder.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about all of the issues that Addie confronts: cruel gossip, name calling, bullying, speaking out, staying silent, human rights, consumerism, and so on. Kids: How do you define yourself and others? What makes a person popular? Is today's culture more or less accepting of teens who want to be different?

  • The author chose to tell this story through a series of poems. Do you think this is an effective way to show that these were Addie's inner thoughts? How would her story have been different if it had been told as a more straightforward narrative or in some other form, like a graphic novel?

  • If you've also read The Misfits or Totally Joe, what did this book add to the trilogy? Do you think there's another book that could be written about Addie and her friends? What do you think it would be about?

Book details

Author:James Howe
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:July 26, 2011
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Read aloud:10 - 12
Read alone:11 - 14

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old October 9, 2011

A great book for more mature tweens

Addie is a bit of a know-it-all, and wants to fix all the world's problems. However, she is subject to name-calling and teasing since she's a misfit. in the story there are several news articles, which will likely be stressful to younger kids. I am 12, and I found the third article, about a girl who's parents were divorced, and had moved to America which was away from her dad. She was subject to nasty teasing, and ended up hanging herself--with a scarf that her little sister gave her. Parents need to know that this story and two others (one about the girls in Afghanistan who were getting sold into marriage, and the other about a rock-star who hit, bit, and nearly choked his girlfriend, and then, everyone thought he was right.) play a part in the story, and may be distressing. Also, the story mentions the death of a friend's mom, and of Kennedy, and Addie's cat. There is also a bit about the fact that it's okay to be gay. A final thing that parents might want to know before letting their kids read this book it that a bit of the story talks about how overused the phrase "omigod" is, which some kids, especially those who constantly use it themselves, may not get.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old February 11, 2015


This was a great book. Vivid poems that show great imagination and a great understanding of the world. It's true that it does discuss Addie's friend being gay, but that's fine. Joe is one of the greatest book characters ever. I don't think being gay is a bad thing and this a one of the focal points of this book. It has some serious topics, but none that are some kind of evil workings. I think this is a great book for anybody.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old November 17, 2011


I hate giving a bad review. I really do. But I felt inclined to in this case. Addie's an annoying brat, this book is stupid and boring and CSM gives it 5 stars? What the heck? And Addie had a crush on her (female) teacher? Gross!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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