The author of Bubble (2017) once again engages preteens’ emotional intelligence, this time tackling bullying and mental illness from dual perspectives.
Alex’s OCD makes him see and feel germs everywhere, so he wears gloves in public, which often makes him a target of bullying—his private “Worry Lists” don’t seem to keep his phobias from multiplying. Meanwhile, Dan adores and always followed his big brother, Ben, but when Ben had to go away (exactly why and where become a light mystery), Dan fell under the spell of bully Sophie, who makes Alex her primary target. Dan unconsciously tries to hide his hurt and anger about Ben by working on a raft the two had begun. In short, alternating first-person chapters, the two Year Seven British boys give readers access to their inner thoughts and pain. When their friendly mums arrange for them to work on Dan’s raft together, Alex must confront his debilitating phobias and Dan must hide the relationship from Sophie. As work together slowly turns into mutual understanding and finally, friendship, readers also see the causes and effects of both bullying and empathy. The high tension and realism (including pop culture, family dynamics, etc.) will keep the interest of avid and reluctant readers alike. Alex, Dan, and Sophie all appear to be white, and the book assumes the white default.
For fans of Wonder looking for more ways to appreciate tolerance and diversity. (Fiction. 9-13)