If You Only Knew



Sensitive, frank portrayal of average 7th grader.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Zoe copies another student's homework, lies to her friends and family, and breaks a major family rule.


Zoe's father and sister have numerous intense verbal arguments, one of which borders on physical violence.


Zoe's father calls Zoe's sister a whore. Zoe insults a boy by referring to his "thing." Menstruation is mentioned in conversation.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that sometimes scenes and characters lack background and context, but the protagonist is well-developed. Readers will anticipate the next series entry after reaching the unresolved ending.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Zoe's always been friends with everyone, boys and girls. Now that she's in seventh grade, though, the rules are changing, and Zoe's torn between potential best friends and boyfriends. As much a character study as a novel, this book provides a sensitive portrayal of an average seventh grader, whose minor problems Rachel Vail treats sincerely and seriously.


Is it any good?


This unusual series is built on keenly drawn episodes and character exploration. The writing doesn't pretend to be literature, and the problems it deals with are more middle-class preteen angst than anything really serious. But Rachel Vail certainly remembers middle school, when romantic feelings both exhilarate and embarrass, and when friendships are more important than life. It's the sharply observed details that make this series.

Certain scenes accurately reflect the agonies of junior high, and others illustrate the humor in pre-teen romances. Zoe's introspective reactions to these traumas are the heart of the novel. Her gradual recognition of her romantic feelings is realistic, and her devotion to CJ is complex rather than merely pathetic. The redesign of the books -- originally published in a small format perfect for tucking into backpacks and purses, but now larger and featuring cover photos of generic models -- is unfortunate.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the book's heroine. Do you relate to Zoe? How so?

  • Consider one of the issues Zoe struggles with in this book: If you were her friend, what advice would you give her?

Book details

Author:Rachel Vail
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:January 1, 1998
Number of pages:151
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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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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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old April 25, 2011

Perfect for tween girls!

I loved it.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byMillyMolly November 23, 2010

Better than I thought

I got this book from the library, and it actually wasnt for me it was for my sister. But she wasnt interested in it so I read it. Its an ok book, its actually really good compared to how I thought it was going to be. There are some good rolemodels, and they all learn their lessons in the end.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Great role models


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