In this companion novel, Howe explores the interior life of the most outspoken member of the “Gang of Five” from The Misfits and Totally Joe (2001, 2005).
Told entirely in verse, the story follows 13-year-old Addie’s struggles to define herself according to her own terms. Through her poems, Addie reflects on her life and life in general: her first boyfriend, what it means to be accepted and her endeavors to promote equality. Addie is at her most fragile when she examines her relationship with her boyfriend and the cruel behavior of her former best friend. Her forthright observations address serious topics with a maturity beyond her age. She contemplates the tragedy of teen suicide in “What If” and decries the practice of forced marriages in “What We Don’t Know,” stating “…And their mothers / have no power to change how it goes. They too / have been beaten and raped, sold and traded like / disposable goods, owned by men, while the only thing / they own is their misery…” Addie’s voice gains confidence when she takes on the role of an advocate, as when she reveals her reasons for forming the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) at school in “No One is Free When Others Are Oppressed (A Button on My Backpack).” Bolstered by the sage advice of her grandmother, Addie charts a steady course through her turbulent seventh-grade year.
Readers will agree when, in the triumphant final poem, an assured Addie proclaims: “I am a girl who knows enough / to know this life is mine.” (author's note) (Verse novel. 11-14)