I’ll be honest…I expected to hate this one. Or if not hate it, at least be supremely annoyed by it. I’d bought a copy for the library, but based on the reviews I read, I thought it would be one of those books I just wouldn’t read. It didn’t sound “distinguished” and it certainly didn’t sound like my cup of tea. But I picked it up because it was on this year’s Mock Newbery list, and I’m nothing if not thorough about mock awards lists (even though I couldn’t attend this year). It didn’t hurt that a coworker read it and enjoyed it.
Would I vote for it for an award like the Newbery? Probably not. But did I enjoy it and would I recommend it to kids? Definitely. It’s the kind of story that might sound like a problem novel for young readers, but what it really does is show characters learning to be friends, learning to find the good in themselves and to deal with the bad in others. Which makes it sound all didactic, but it never feels that way. The kids feel authentically like kids, even though they sometimes seem to exist in a hyper-reality.
A few small issues: I was so disappointed in Delly’s parents for a while. I don’t think this is something that would bother child readers, but they seemed like good people and I really wanted to see them step up to the plate and help Delly learn to control her impulses, instead of just being disappointed in her constant scrapes. In the end, it was really Delly’s younger brother that helped out the most, although we did see more nuanced sides of the parents later (like the dad’s admission to Delly that he had been like her as a kid). Also, while Delly’s gradual understanding of Ferris’ situation seemed realistic, the fact that the school calmly accepted Ferris’ silence and requests not to ever be touched, without any hint of suspicion or calls to the authorities, was a combination of hard-to-swallow and disappointing.
Despite these problems, the characters themselves were captivating and the book overall was quite enjoyable.
Source: my public library