If You Only Knew

Book review by
Norah Caroline Piehl, Common Sense Media
If You Only Knew Book Poster Image
Sensitive, frank portrayal of average 7th grader.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

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Kid, 10 years old April 25, 2011
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 r... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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