Parents' Guide to

Just Like That

By Joly Herman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Warm boarding school grief tale has some gory violence.

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Kids say (4 ):

Delightful moments and beautiful descriptions color this touching story of loss -- but there are bloody scenes as well. Eighth grader Meryl Lee Kowalski trundles through her first weeks at St. Elene's Preparatory School with a bulky load of grief that she's trying to ignore. The Blank, as she calls it, is ready to break through every hard lesson she's learning, whether it's being looked down upon by her super-rich roommate, or fumbling in field hockey practice. A boy named Matt Coffin also knows something about grief, and his struggles to make it through a winter in the shack where he's squatting create a nice foil for Meryl Lee's lessons in pouring tea and making appropriate conversation.

The violence that surrounds Matt and his unlikely history seem jarring when everything else in the story is moving at such an enjoyable clip. The graphic description of beatings -- gory popped kneecaps and bloody stabbed shins -- create a din against the tender philosophizing and spiritual searching that the main characters are undergoing. But the ending of the story satisfies, and author Gard D. Schmidt captures the essence of going through a grief process from the point of view of two kids whose hearts have been broken and who are in need of compassion.

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