Quite a while back I added this book to the TBR after reading Sophie’s review. I was really just anticipating a fluffy little story, and while I did get that, there were some solid bones underneath. Despite the book’s short length, there is really excellent character development in a way that flows naturally and made the story super easy to read.
Juli and Bryce are the main characters of the story, and they tell their tale in alternating chapters – usually about the same event or period of time. Although the book covers several years, it never felt bogged down or like the story was being rushed. Instead, Van Draanen does an excellent job of hitting the high points that kept the story moving without feeling like we were just skimming on the top of the characters’ lives.
When Juli and Bryce first meet, it’s because Bryce and his family have just moved in across the street from Juli’s house. Julie is super excited about having a playmate so close by who is her age (they are both in second grade), but Bryce, as is typical with boys his age, is kind of weirded out by Juli because she is not only a girl, but an extremely enthusiastic and friendly girl. Throughout the next several years, Juli is convinced that she and Bryce could be the best of friends, while Bryce spends most of his time trying to avoid her.
But this story is so much more than just girl meets boy and boy needs a little persuasion before falling in love. Instead, it manages to really look a lot at family relationships, at the importance of embracing who you are, and how easy it is to just assume that you know all about a person from just a glimpse of his or her life.
I loved the way that Juli’s parents are presented. It was so, so refreshing to come across a couple who are still happily married after many years and many hard times. They are amazing parents, so supportive of their children, but also good at discipline and providing parameters. A huge part of the reason that I loved this book was because even though Juli’s life and family weren’t perfect, her parents were fantastic role models.
Gah! I’m doing a really bad job with this book! I just enjoyed it so much, and I can hardly even explain why. It was just so well done! And while it was mostly reviewing lessons that most adults have already learned, I think this would be a great book if you have a middle schooler or even someone a bit older than that in your life. This book absolutely never comes across as preachy, but does a really great job nonetheless of teaching about looking beyond the superficial in someone’s life – both the negative and positive superficials – to see who they are underneath.
This is a short book that I breezed through in a single afternoon, but still manages to pack a powerful punch. I think it’s a book that should be added to every elementary school’s reading program.