Is there a more painful year of life than the 13th year? For Claire, the answer is a big dramatic no. There’s the devastating news that all of her dance friends are moving up a year, except for her. There’s the tremendous zit on her nose on the first day of school. And then Claire’s father has a stroke, and pain is completely redefined. Claire can hardly bear to be in the same room with the man who used to be her dad.
Jordan Sonnenblick (Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie) truly understands middle schoolers. He taps into young people’s craving for attention that vies with crushing self-consciousness, and the flippant attitude that hides vulnerability. While his earlier books feature male protagonists, this portrayal of Claire is also utterly believable. She finds it difficult to express her grief over the loss of the father she once knew, but immediately freaks out when she gets her period while wearing her white marching band pants.
This endearing blend of humor and empathy is reminiscent of Cammie McGovern’s Just My Luck.
Diane Colson is the Library Director at City College in Gainesville, Florida.