A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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?
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.