Bess is a new 6th grader. She’s determined to appear different and make some cool new friends. Soon her perspective on what is important in life is going to change.
I think the relationships and development of characters is really genuine in this novel. Changing schools is a big burden, and kids do change. I would have gone with 11 being a bit young for developing boy-girl relationships, but what would I know? I completely understand Ethan and Bess’ perspectives on it, and find it funny that their third friend is the one that makes a go of it.
What this novel really does is promote social responsibility. A soup kitchen, somewhere for people to sleep out of the rain and snow. I love that it’s connected to a church, but that the church is not too churchy and preachy. I think that homelessness is more of a problem in the USA, but we certainly have our share of it here. If you have spare time, please do donate if you can.
I feel like Australian schools and parents are less pushy. In the plays I participated in, none of the stars or almost-stars were quite so Diva-y. And I was a stage manager, and it drove me nuts that people didn’t pay attention to things, and I knew their lines better than they did. I wish I had seen more of the play. I’m not familiar with Bye Bye Birdy – maybe it is really relevant to the themes of the book? I would hope so. Charity is a virtue, and everyone should try to work to it.
I have a feeling that this novel is not good enough to jump the country divide. Grade 6 for Australians is the final year of primary school, so it wouldn’t make a difference what you looked like. Also, the majority of schools here have a school uniform. There are still uncool people, and bitchy girls, but that’s in any school. I say test it out in a classroom (because it asks lots of important questions), and see how it goes.
I have enjoyed other novels by Wittlinger, but this one falls short of the mark for me. I don’t think I’ll reread it, but I will put it on the shelf, in case I discover a home that it really needs (or that really needs it).