A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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What's the story?
Entering seventh grade at her upscale private school, nothing's going right for Kirsten. Her parents aren't speaking to each other, her best friend, Rory, has abandoned her for the mean social queen bee of their grade, and she's gained 30 pounds in the last few months. But on the first day she meets new kid Walk -- one of the very few African-Americans at her school -- and they soon strike up a friendship.
Kirsten's mother isn't happy about this new friendship and advises her to "be one of the crowd." Perhaps a new pair of boots from Nordstrom's will help. But when a shocking family secret -- the source of the friction between her parents -- is revealed, it's Kirsten's good heart and common sense that will pull them through.
Is it any good?
This shouldn't work. First of all, the "fat girl abandoned by friend for popular mean girl" plot has been done -- to death. Second, the story hinges on an unlikely melodramatic coincidence that comes out of left field. Add in an awkward structure of alternating chapters about Kirsten and Walk -- the former in first person, the latter in third -- and you should have a mess.
But author Gennifer Choldenko, who won a Newbery Honor two years ago for Al Capone Does My Shirts, knows how to draw readers in and keep them there. Kirsten and Walk are winning protagonists (and Kirsten's voice is snappy-humorous), the short alternating chapters keep readers wanting more, and, just when you think you know where it's all going, the big coincidence adds a fascinating level of complexity. For a book with so little action, it's awfully hard to put down.