The List of Things That Will Not Change

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
The List of Things That Will Not Change Book Poster Image
Pitch-perfect divorce tale speaks to modern family life.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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

Educational Value

Bea and her classmates are learning about colonial life in New York by preparing a meal typical of that time. Bea learns to makes butter by shaking heavy cream and in jar -- for a really long time. She learns a lot about oysters and their role in Native American and colonial American life. There's also information about the modern-day attempts to bring oyster beds back to the waters of New York. Bea's therapist, Miriam, teaches Bea techniques for feeling her feelings, and for managing anxiety and anger, including giving herself time to worry twice a day for five minutes, and then putting the rest of the worry aside until those times. 

Positive Messages

Happiness can make you feel huge. Thinking two steps ahead allows you to slow down and make good choices. Family can be the people who love you. The feelings behind hating something or someone might actually be feelings of fear or uncertainty. Being honest about how you feel can help you communicate your feelings with others. Try to stick with people who love you for who you are. You are allowed to make mistakes and to be forgiven.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bea's parents are both communicative and attentive to her needs, especially when they separate and divorce. Her mom takes her to a therapist named Miriam, whom Bea eventually learns to trust whoeheartedly. Her dad's boyfriend, Jesse, is sensitive to Bea's feelings, and he does things that feel right and good to her. Jesse's sister, Sheila, is a caregiver in Bea's life, and Bea is thrilled that Sheila will become her aunt when her father and Jesse get married. The people in Bea's life all seem to be White. Some people in their lives can't accept or respect her dad and Jesse's decision to get married.


Bea has trouble controlling her anger, and she pushes, hits and "bashes" kids, but this is not described in brutal detail. Parents talk with her mom about her behavior, and one girl says she is "mean." Bea apologizes for her actions, goes to therapy to help manage her emotions, and eventually stops acting out.


Bea's dad and Jesse hold hands and hug at the wedding.


Star Trek: The Next Generation is watched often in Bea's home -- an episode is described in detail, and characters talk and imitate Captain Picard. Band-Aid, Connect Four, Sorry, Boggle, Skype, Frog and Toad, Harriet the Spy, Madeline, Paddington, Charlotte's Web, M.C. Higgins the Great, Coke, Dr. Pepper, Boy Scouts.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine at a wedding.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The List of Things That Will Not Change, by Newbery Award winning author Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me), is a tender and compelling story about divorce and remarriage told in retrospect by a 12-year-old girl. After she hears of her parents' plans for divorce, Bea begins to worry more and has big feelings, which play a role in her behavior, and her behavior starts to get unpredictable. She gets very angry at anyone who calls her names having to do with her parents being divorced, and she gets furious when anyone makes comments about her dad being gay. Her actions include grabbing a cousin's ponytail, shoving, throwing things, "bashing" people, and pushing people. Bea apologizes for her actions and works to control her behavior. People who have different beliefs about homosexuality speak out in hurtful ways. Adults drink wine at a wedding. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykwanchun August 1, 2020

Funny, heartwarming novel enjoyable to both adults and kids

This was a page turner my wife and son both kept insisting I read another chapter and another chapter well past bedtime. My 9-year-old son kept saying, “Read... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 25, 2020

Great book!

This is a great book! I know people are going to be mad that there are gay characters, but I think diversity is great so please don’t write bad reviews because... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE, Bea finds out her parents are getting divorced when she's 8-years-old. Sitting her down for a "family meeting," her parents tell Bea that she would now be living in two separate apartments and that her dad is gay. They give her a list of "Things That Will Not Change," which starts with "1. Mom loves you more than anything. 2. Dad loves you more than anything," and she adds an entry of her own: "Dad is gay." Change is unavoidable, though, and Bea finds that she has to "build a hundred bridges" to everything in her dad's new apartment, "every new lamp, every new fork, even the bathroom faucets." Her eczema is acting up, and she starts acting out. She shoves kids, throws a gift bag at a parent, and she starts to feel pretty crummy inside. Enter a children's therapist named Miriam, who helps Bea learn to recognize her feelings, calm her worried mind, and let her know that she's not a bad person. Bea slowly realizes that she's gaining new family, which can feel confusing at times, but has the potential to fill her with happiness.

Is it any good?

Poetic, heartfelt, courageous and bright, this story about changes in family expertly covers a lot of emotional acreage. Kids will relate to Bea's kid-wise yet innocent voice. She understands why her dad is in love with Jesse -- "The things Jesse brought never felt wrong. They felt like presents." But she can't control her annoyance at people like her teacher Mr. Home, who gives special lunch privileges to kids who get great grades on spelling tests, and Bea never gets great grades on spelling tests. Bea's emotions have all the color, intensity, and flavor of feelings that have never been felt before: the balloon-big feeling of elation, and the dark, itchy feeling of uncertainty.

Author Rebecca Stead crafts an intimate and unique story of loss, change, and hope with The List of Things That Will Not Change. She daubs New York City with a romantic glow, plunking a 10-year-old in the kitchen of her dad's restaurant while she nurses a cut foot, eating homemade butter sprinkled with sea salt on freshly made bread. She paints wonderful characters, like Jesse and Sheila, the sunny Southerners, who bring their love and tenderness to a child set adrift by changes. And she raises a quiet and powerful fist when Bea's dad gets married to the man he loves. The swirling splintering of a child's feelings of loss and love when a family goes through divorce has found a voice in this book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about how divorce is portrayed in The List of Things That Will Not Change. How are divorced families shown in shows and movies? Does reading about divorce or seeing it on screen get to the heart of feelings that kids feel? Do stories help kids understand what happens when families change?

  • When her dad decides to marry another man, most people in their New York City community embrace their decision. Are some communities more tolerant of people's choices? Why or why not?

  • Bea's grandfather recorded himself reading stories to Bea's dad. Do you like to listen to stories? Which apps make you feel connected to a story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of divorce

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