Three interwoven narrative strands explore the complicated possibilities of friendship in early adolescence.
Bridge (formerly Bridget) finds increasing confidence as she navigates her seventh-grade year, while, in unsent letters to his absent grandfather, classmate Sherm expresses grief and anger over changes in his family. And an unnamed, slightly older child in a second-person narrative spends a single miserable day avoiding school for reasons that are revealed at the turning point. Stead explores communication and how messages—digital or verbal, intentional and inadvertent, delivered or kept private—suffuse the awkward, tentative world of young teens leaping (or sometimes falling) from the nest in search of their new selves. From Bridge’s cat-ears, worn daily from September through mid-February, to Sherm’s stolid refusal to respond to his grandfather’s texts, the protagonists try on their new and changing lives with a mixture of caution and recklessness. Stead adroitly conveys the way things get complicated so quickly and so completely for even fairly ordinary children at the edge of growing up with her cleareyed look at bullies and their appeal (one girl is “truly genius at being awful”), as well as her look at impulsiveness and the lure of easy sharing via text. She captures the stomach-churning moments of a misstep or an unplanned betrayal and reworks these events with grace, humor, and polish into possibilities for kindness and redemption.
Superb. (Fiction. 11-14)