Well, That Was Awkward

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Well, That Was Awkward Book Poster Image
Friendships tested in clever tween-texting romcom.

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Kids say

age 10+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This book is based on the Cyrano de Bergerac story, which is mentioned, along with Brown Girl Dreaming. Gracie spends time discussing her passion for certain books and favorite teachers. She also loves tortoises and "geeks out" on all things tortoise. Gracie and Sienna raise money for causes like the Sierra Club and First Book, an organization that gives books to kids who don't have any access to them.

Positive Messages

Be gentle and generous. Focus on the good things about yourself and your loved ones. Even the most difficult among us are struggling, so be compassionate with them. Stand up for the underdog. Help your friends in need. Having a perfect body and perfect face is not the goal -- being an interesting, loving person is the goal. It's OK to be a strong tween girl. Don't insult yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gracie shows a lot of love and care for her friends. She stands up to a bullying girl on behalf of an unpopular kid. This has social consequences, but she does not regret her decision. Gracie is conscious of when she is being unkind to people, or disrespectful to her parents, but makes amends whenever she can. She does her best to accept her body the way she is, knowing that her goal is to be comfortable in her skin -- not to be perfectly skinny or gorgeous. Her friend Emmett is a loyal, caring, funny boy, who thinks that Gracie's humor and her soul are much more important than her looks. 

Violence

Gracie's sister Bret had been killed when she was a child. The accident and the intense grief that has haunted her family are themes. Her sister died in her mother's arms.

Sex

Hand holding, first kisses.

Language

"Screw you," "omfg," "hella," "sucks."

Consumerism

Google, Snapchat, L'Occitaine, Starbucks. Organizations like Sierra Club, First Book, City Harvest. New York City spots of note: Absolute Bagels, 16 Handles, Famiglia, Dalton School, Stuyvesant School.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Well, That Was Awkward, by Rachel Vail, (Justin Case), is a text-message rom-com update of the classic 19th century Cyrano de Bergerac story, in which smart, funny, large-nosed Gracie helps pretty but shy Sienna communicate with a boy she likes. A sibling's death plays a role in Gracie's emotional life. Eighth grade gossip and micro-managing dominates this book, in which parts of the story are told entirely in text messages. For a tween romance set in a big city, there is precious little swearing, sex, or violence in this story. Instead, the who-likes-who plot is a vehicle for larger lessons about friendship, humor, self-image, freedom, finding a voice, and coping with grief.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old November 3, 2017

A nice book for tween girls

I loved this book, and it was about middle school crushes. Someone has a crush on someone else, and her best friend is dating, so she must help her best friend... Continue reading

What's the story?

In WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD, Gracie Grant is the smart, funny, loud, large-nosed friend to adorable Sienna Reyes.  AJ Rojanasopondist, the sleek, athletic eighth-grader, who makes Gracie's heart do flip-flops, likes Sienna, but Sienna is too shy to text him. So Gracie steps in and lends Sienna a hand in the savvy text department. A sly romantic tangle ensues until friendships are strained and a painful family secret comes to light.  

Is it any good?

This entertaining teen-texting melodrama addresses deeper issues of self-love, grief, real friendship, and fitting in. Well, That Was Awkward gives pitch-perfect voice to a multicultural group of school friends who live in New York City. The Loud Crowd is what the popular kids call themselves, and Gracie and her closest friends Sienna, Emmett, and AJ hover on the periphery of the top level, which lends the story a tension that feels believable. Crushes, awkward behavior, and self-consciousness dominate their thoughts and texts. Because, eighth grade. 

Vail does a deft job portraying Gracie as funny and ungainly, yet true to herself. She strives to be comfortable in her own skin, which is a fantastic message for tween girls. Gracie and Sienna are aware that girls insult themselves more than boys do, and then make a pact to stop insulting themselves. Can we please have more of that in contemporary media? As Gracie would say, #togetherness. When everything seems to go wrong, and her phone goes silent, Gracie's depth of emotion feels real. No one wants to be left out. That dark spot, however, makes the fairy tale ending very satisfying. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what lengths kids go to in order to be liked or desired in Well, That Was Awkward. Would you let yourself be pushed into taking a revealing selfie to get someone's attention? How do you know when to draw the line? 

  • Can you think of instances in movies or TV shows when underdogs throw shade on a bully? What would you do if you saw a popular kid bullying an outcast kid?

  • How do Gracie's friends help her love herself no matter what? Do your friends help you feel good about yourself? 

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