I soared through this sweet, inventive middle-grade story – not that I wanted it to end… but it simply grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Elyse’s voice is spot-on, perfect. I love her internal dialogue! Everything is on point, and completely feels real.
Well, yes, even the CAV (the medical condition that she has that makes words appear on her skin). When I first heard about this premise, I thought it was a clever way to display the effects of bullying. But it is much more than that. It does not feel like magical realism, it does not feel surreal. It feels totally believable and my heart ached for El more than once. For one, if you have ever had a skin condition that itched, you will know that this is no joke. I grew up with toxic eczema, which landed me in the hospital once (they tell me I almost died). And I’ve had recurring skin rashes throughout my life, that affected how I dressed, whether or not I went swimming, etc. Along with everything else, this was especially hard during junior high (when we had swimming in gym class!). I wouldn’t repeat those years for a million dollars.
It’s hard to pull a quote without spoiling things, so I’ll just say that whether words are on the inside or the outside, they can still hurt. And that you don’t need someone else to tell you’re awesome. But sometimes we forget that. Everyone has something that they are lacking, or something they need – whether you are the snotty cool girl or the girl with the weird skin condition. And if you have it within your power to give someone what they are lacking, you will feel better for doing so.
Along with the smashing character development, the plot was compelling enough to keep me turning pages long into the night. I loved the little twists and turns and especially the one at the end! I love the device of the Letters to Future Self that helped us sort out the confused thoughts of an 11 year old, and I loved that “hate him/love him” love interest, the “too-nice” guy that you just couldn’t date, the snotty girl – they were all real. I mean, for real real. I knew every one of them. Ugh. Thank God that’s over, and here we just get to visit.
I want everyone to visit. For days afterward, I found myself wanting to return to this setting, these characters. And that, as we all know, is the mark of a good book. This is a wonderful, charming, touching read full of great characters with a fantastic story and message. And can we get a hand clap for that cover? I love the colors – the whole book is lime green and pink. Just yummy. Get your hands on it!
Abby Cooper does the impossible – she makes it seem like junior high is almost worth all the pain. This is lovely. It is simply lovely. I hope we hear a lot more from this author. Also note that she will be doing events to support the book. Her launch is this coming Saturday, July 23 at the Arlington Heights Community Center/Library in St. Paul, from 3-5pm. There will be cake! She will also be at Barnes & Nobles: Galleria in Edina on July 30 at 11am and Har Mar in Roseville on Aug 6 at 2pm. Check her website for more event information, including school visits, festivals and more!
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author. Yes, I know her. She’s delightful. I met her while we were working together on an editing project. She in no way influenced this review or my rare use of stars on GoodReads (FIVE stars, baby!). And I do sense a tiny bit of Abby in Elyse!