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Anything But Ordinary
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Anything But Ordinary

4.1 7
by Valerie Hobbs

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From the moment their romance begins in eighth grade, Winifred and Bernie are individualists. They pride themselves on being different, and have each other for support through the tough years of high school. So when they consider college, they send off for the same catalogs, promising never to separate.

But Bernie's mother dies and Bernie more or less drops out


From the moment their romance begins in eighth grade, Winifred and Bernie are individualists. They pride themselves on being different, and have each other for support through the tough years of high school. So when they consider college, they send off for the same catalogs, promising never to separate.

But Bernie's mother dies and Bernie more or less drops out of school, becoming an ordinary guy working away in a tire shop, while Winifred goes about as far from New Jersey as a girl can go: the University of California at Santa Barbara. College is a culture shock to Winifred, but her three savvy roommates teach her how to fit in. By the time Bernie catches up with her again, Winifred has become, well . . . ordinary. Can they rediscover their true selves - and true love?

Told from alternating viewpoints, with a sense of humor and a deep appreciation of first love, Valerie Hobbs's novel captures an endearing young couple's search for independence and identity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Believable and enjoyable"—VOYA

“Teens will sympathize with Winifred as she tries to discover who she really is without losing the one thing she comes to realize is irreplaceable.” —Publishers Weekly

“Warm and satisfying.”—Booklist

"Drama of the highest order." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“The teens’ actions and world are contemporary and very real. Readers curious about the adventures awaiting them in college will enjoy this well-written, believable story of the first year in college.” —School Library Journal

"The theme of finding one's true self is relevant for YAs." —IRA

“The whole time, your heart is breaking for them, wishing they would get together. It was written with a unique voice.” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

Publishers Weekly

Die-hard romantics will delight in Hobbs's (Carolina Crow Girl) newest offering about two New Jersey teens. Bernie Federman and Winifred Owens feel like social outcasts throughout middle and high school. What draws Bernie to Winifred is her individuality ("She was as popular at Pittstown Middle as the cafeteria meat loaf"). As Bernie and Winifred navigate their way into high school, the two fall in love. Both gifted students, they make plans to attend the same college where Winifred will study nanoscience and Bernie will become a writer. Their plans take an unexpected turn after Bernie's mother dies from cancer and he loses all motivation to do anything. Hobbs's novel contains all the elements of a light romance, but she introduces something of a cautionary tale. After Winifred heads off to college in Santa Barbara, Bernie decides to drive his old truck cross-country to be with her. However, he is unprepared for the new Wini, who has changed her major to communications and looks just like everyone else on campus. Hobbs covers the years with smooth pacing, always keeping her protagonists front and center. The third-person narrative switches between the teens' perspectives, building suspense about whether they can work things out. Teens will sympathize with Winifred as she tries to discover who she really is without losing the one thing she comes to realize is irreplaceable. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Bernie and Winifred became best friends at Pittstown Middle School. Their relationship continued into high school and now that they have graduated, it may just follow them into their college career. Except that Bernie has decided not to go on to college. That leaves Winifred traveling across country to the University of California and a whole new set of friends and experiences. Bernie and Winifred were not among the popular kids in school. In fact they started their own club, "The Green Hat Club," in order to make some connection with the school and with their peers. As it turned out, they were the only two members of the club. The two planned to go to the University of California, but when Bernie's mother dies of cancer he drops into a deep depression and decides that he doesn't want to do anything. So as Winifred heads out to California, Bernie works in his father's tire shop. Before long he realizes how much he misses Winifred and decides to make the cross-country trip to California. Of course, Winifred, calling herself "Wini" now, has begun caring about the things the two used to make fun of. When Bernie arrives, he finds a very different Winifred, but in the process finds out some things about himself. The novel is a quirky story that reminds readers about what is most important in life—not looks, not parties, but friends. Winifred and Bernie have a solid friendship that helps them grow from high school students into caring adults.
Children's Literature - Pat Trattles
Quirky, dorks, nerds, outsiders—these are all words that describe Bernie and Winifred. They do not fit the mold—and they do not want to. In fact they pride themselves on their individuality and misfit lifestyle. From the moment they meet in eighth grade they are kindred spirits. In high school they begin dating. Their senior year they are at the top of their class and ready to take on college. But then Bernie's mother dies and Bernie's world falls apart. He foregoes school and starts working in his father's tire shop. Meanwhile, Winifred goes off to the University of California at Santa Barbara—about as far away from New Jersey (and Bernie) as she can get. Determined to forget him, Winifred, with the help of her roommates, quickly loses her unique identity and becomes Wini, the shopaholic-boy-chasing- partying-coed type she has always despised. She sends Bernie a quick three line postcard intending to end their relationship, but Bernie interprets it as a cry for help. Determined to be her knight in shining armor, he follows her to California, where she easily brushes him aside. Undeterred, Bernie stays in California and tries to win her back. Told in alternating points of view, Winifred and Bernie's story is not only about the first year of college but also about changing expectations, roles, and relationships. At times laugh- out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, this well written story is sure to be a winner with young adult readers.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
Winifred and Bernie, both quirky and unpopular, meet in eighth grade in New Jersey, become best friends, and later begin to date. Poised to graduate at the top of their class and head to college together, the couple's plans are derailed by the death of Bernie's mother. Grief-stricken, Bernie lets his grades slip and decides to forego college. Winifred chooses UC Santa Barbara, where she quickly abandons her unique identity; becomes Wini; switches majors from nanoscience to communications; and passes her days chasing boys, shopping, and drinking lattes. Convinced that she needs him, Bernie drives across the country only to be essentially ditched upon arrival. Nevertheless he stays and carves out a humble existence, sleeping in the library, sitting in on lectures, and almost being seduced by a graduate student. Told in alternating viewpoints, the novel explores the different paths that can be taken, both by college students and the so-called slackers who do not begin their education the traditional way. Though Wini is quick to pass judgment on Bernie's choice of the La-Z-Boy life, he exceeds the expectations placed on him and chooses a more interesting path. The teens' actions and world are contemporary and very real. Readers curious about the adventures awaiting them in college will enjoy this well-written, believable story of the first year in college. By the end, they'll be anxious to learn the outcome of Bernie and Winifred's reunion and they won't be disappointed.
—Jennifer BarnesCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.41(h) x 0.75(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


When he was fourteen, Bernie Federmanfell in love. And he never fell out. Except once, almost. But that was four years and a lifetime later. By that time Winifred (she was calling herself Wini) had become somebody he hardly knew anymore. An ordinary girl.

When he was thirteen, Bernie Federman moved with his parents from Clinton to Pittstown, only half a thumb away according to the map of the great Garden State, but an alien country to Bernie’s heart. At Pittstown Middle, two thousand strong, he knew not one person. From the first day, he was a back-row boy, wedged between the makeup girls and the gangsters. Or, in his honors classes, between the brains and the worker bees, when he himself was neither one. Every weekday morning he would have to endure his mother’s sad puppy-dog eyes as she handed him his mayonnaise sandwiches—all he could manage to swallow—in a neatly folded paper bag, and watched him trudge out to the bus like he was going to the dentist for a tooth extraction. "It’ll get better, hon," she’d say every morning. "Wait and see."

His mother was strong and gentle and funny. She made Bernie laugh, even when he didn’t feel like it. Like a best friend, she believed in him. But was she right? If he waited, would things really get better?

When he was thirteen, Bernie Federman had no idea who he was. Was he the clone of Magnus Morris, his maternal great-great-grandfather, the famous inventor (a brain) who made and lost a million dollars before the age of twenty-three? His mother said he was. Or was he simply the son of a man who worked in a tire shop from six a.m. until six p.m., and was snoring in his La-Z-Boy halfway through Wheel of Fortune?

In the eighth grade other kids seemed to know who they were. They were "into" things. Skateboarding, soccer, Xbox, iPods. Clubs. Eighth grade seemed to be a time for joining clubs. Bernie was a reader and a pretty good chess player, but Pittstown Middle didn’t have a Readers’ Club or a Chess Club. Playing chess meant you were a nerd, but there wasn’t a Nerds’ Club either.

He almost decided to start one. His English teacher, Mrs. Nelson, mentioned one day after announcements that anybody could start a club. All you needed was a constitution and a teacher to agree to be the club’s adviser. A rash of clubs popped up—the Harry Club (a sort of readers’ club, though the only thing the members read was Harry Potter); the (all girl) Fashionistas; Three Sheets to the Wind, a sailing club that had to change its name when the adviser said it had "an unfortunate connotation." Everybody funneled into one club or another, all except for the International Club, which had one lone member: Winifred Owens.

Winifred was a front-row girl, one of those with a popup arm. No matter the question, Winifred had the full and complete answer. Bernie could tell that she was about as popular at Pittstown Middle as the cafeteria meat loaf, except of course with teachers like Mrs. Nelson.

"What a fine idea, Winifred!" exclaimed Mrs. Nelson when Winifred proposed the International Club. "Let’s see a show of hands. Who would like to join Winifred’s club?"

The result was predictable. But Winifred never gave up, not when she suggested the Journaling Club, the Renaissance Comedy Club, or the Live Poets’ Society. And nobody, not one kid, signed up.

Then one day Winifred Owens came to school wearing what looked like an olive on her head, a green knit hat with a bright red pom-pom. That was bad enough. But when she proposed the Green Hat Club, even Mrs. Nelson lost her patience.

"Now, Winifred," Mrs. Nelson said, "of what possible social significance is a Green Hat Club?"

That was when Winifred lost her cool. With a face red as her pom-pom, Winifred stood up and rattled off all the names of the other newly formed clubs—the Jim Carrey Club, Bling Bling on Mondays, the PBJs (members had to have names that began with one of those revered three letters). She saved for last the Fashionistas, all six members of which had worn shocking-pink boas that day and sat in a bunch like a chummy family of flamingos.

"Social significance, Mrs. Nelson? Social significance?" By that time, Winifred was on the verge of tears and her voice shook dangerously. "Popularity, Mrs. Nelson. That’s what clubs are all about. Don’t you know that?"

Then Winifred nodded her head very firmly, just once, and sat down.

She stopped raising her hand in class. And every day, she came to school wearing her green hat with the bright red pom-pom. After a while the kids stopped laughing at her, poking fun, playing catch with her hat, or whinnying like horses (Whhhhinifred! Snort Snort!) whenever she appeared in the cafeteria. After a while it was as if Winifred Owens had become invisible.

Which is exactly how Bernie Federman felt.

It took him a couple of weeks after the Winifred–Mrs. Nelson confrontation to find the right hat, the almost right shade of green, though he couldn’t find one with a pom-pom. The hat he finally found, on a 99-cent-sale table at Kmart, could have won, hands down, an ugly-hat contest. It was more puke green than olive green and had a long green tail. The minute he stuck it on his head, Bernie Federman knew something about himself that he hadn’t known before. He had a big heart, so big it wasn’t afraid to stick up for the most unpopular girl at Pittstown Middle.

The next day, carrying his bag of mayonnaise sandwiches, Bernie walked straight to the cafeteria table where Winifred was sitting alone as usual. "Mind if I eat my lunch here?" he said.

Winifred didn’t look up from her book. "No," she said. But when he sat down and opened his lunch bag, she stopped reading and glanced at him. "Why are you wearing that stupid hat?"

"Why are you?" he asked.

She shrugged.

"There’s nothing on that sandwich," she said. "It’s just bread."

He shrugged. He chewed.

She read.

"It’s not really a club," she said after a while.


"The Green Hat Club. It’s not really a club."

"We could write a constitution," Bernie said.

Without comment, Winifred took out her green three-subject spiral notebook and flipped it open. She read aloud the words as she wrote them: "We the members of the infamous Green Hat Club—"

"—in order to form a more perfect union," added Bernie, who had once memorized the entire Bill of Rights for fun—

"—do hereby demand," said Winifred, "freedom from tyranny and bad taste, unlimited library book checkouts, and a special holiday for Green Hat members who are also on the Honor Roll."

"Two holidays for members on the Honor Roll," said Bernie, who knew Winifred would agree.

They met every day at the cafeteria table that now was Bernie’s as well as Winifred’s. For the first time since his uneventful arrival to the eighth grade, Bernie Federman became visible. Laughable, teasable. Then, finally, gladly, invisible again.

By that time, he and Winifred were trading favorite books, playing chess, doing anagrams, and talking for hours on the phone or online. Bernie had a best friend. He could eat something besides mayonnaise sandwiches and keep it down. His grades went up, way up. Bernie Federman was happy.

Excerpted from Anything But Ordinary by Valerie Hobbs.

Copyright 2007 by Valerie Hobbs.

Published in 2007 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

VALERIE HOBBS is the author of many acclaimed books for young readers, including Defiance, recipient of the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award, and Letting Go of Bobby James, an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults. She lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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Anything But Ordinary 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Winifred and Bernie have been best friends, and yes, in love, since middle school. Both were a little different and found fitting in difficult. Their friendship began with Winifred's creation of the Green Hat Club, and then it blossomed.

High school brought an even closer relationship. Winifred and Bernie were excellent students and hoped to place first and second in their graduating class. They studied together, lunched together, and basically spent every waking moment together. Romance became part of the friendship when they shared a first kiss, then a second, a third, etc. Although the physical side of their relationship advanced, both agreed that they would wait until marriage for the final act.

During senior year the hunt for colleges began. They agreed to find a place that would suit them both. Bernie's father worked in a tire shop which made money an obstacle. Winifred searched for a school that would recognize Bernie's academic achievement with a scholarship. All was going as planned until Bernie's mother returned one day from the doctor's with the news that she had ovarian cancer. She was gone in just a few months.

Life for Bernie and Winifred began to change. Winifred set off for California, and Bernie stayed in New Jersey. Headed in different directions for the first time, could their love and friendship remain strong?

ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY is the story of whether or not relationships can endure when faced with individual growth and change. Valerie Hobbs presents Winifred and Bernie in her simple, straight-forward prose. They are regular people living regular lives, but as the title suggests - "anything but ordinary." Readers hear the story from both perspectives and will come to know and care for both Winifred and Bernie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Discovering Yourself Valerie Hobbs¿s Anything but Ordinary is a great novel about relationships and life lessons. In my opinion I think this book was very attention holding and fun to read. I had a great time watching the main characters handle tough situations and fixing their lives. Anything but Ordinary is an intriguing story about Bernie Federman and Winifred Owens, who are individualists. They meet in eighth grade and their relationship grows and they are always together until college. Right before college Bernie¿s mother dies and he faces a deep depression that almost makes him fail school. Bernie is nothing without Winifred so he goes off after her to Santa Barbra California. She has changed to be normal but notices what a mistake it was to be like everyone else. I thought the book was fantastic and I especially loved these quotes: ¿ ¿Through it all, Winifred was Bernie¿s life preserver, his steady beacon off the dark and rocky coast, his faithful guide dog, his hope.¿ ¿ ¿Bernie¿s heart which had shot into his throat thumped back into his chest and tried to resume its normal dull rhythm.¿ ¿ ¿There was no denying it, kissing Winifred was the end of the drought, the sprouting seed, the open flower of spring.¿ The plot was unique, I liked how it went from Bernie¿s life to Winifred¿s life throughout the novel. The events that they under went in the book really convey the message of relationships and love. You can learn how to just be yourself and not let others change you. I enjoyed this book! I think it is great for any young adults and if I could rate this from 1 to 5 stars it would get a 4.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you don't read this book, i recommended it too you. This book is about peer pressure. These two people meet and love madly in love with each other then well you'll have to read the book! I have become more mature because of this book! I am really glad I read it. I loved reading it. I am an extremely picky reader, and I didn't want to put it down. I love this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bernie and Winifred met in middle school through a hat club that Winifred made. Nobody but Bernie ended up joining. They soon became best friends and as they became closer through the years, they fell in love. While in high school, they become as close as close can get until Bernie¿s mother dies of ovarian cancer in his senior year. Bernie becomes depressed and drops out of school. At the same time, his father doesn¿t take on any of the responsibilities that were left void by his mother. Winifred doesn¿t know what to do about him¿ she doesn¿t know how to help. Then, she gets angry with him and decides that she wants to go all the way across the country to the University of Santa Barbara, while Bernie goes to work in his father¿s tire shop. While at college, Winifred falls into peer pressure by her three new roommates and is changed into a completely different person on the inside and out. Then, Bernie realizes that Winifred is the most important thing in his life and decides to go to California to find her. When he finds her, he sees that she has changed and is now rejecting him. Will Winifred ever love Bernie again? Will Bernie give up on Winifred? What things are going to have to change between them? Valerie Hobbs writes a story of twists and turns in the road of young love and how to overcome all things when you support each other.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anything but Ordinary is a really good book by Valerie Hobbs. I enjoyed this book very much because it related to teenagers everyday. This book is about a boy named Bernie moved to a new school and couldn't seem to fit in, until he met this amazing girl, Winifred, and fell in love. They were 'high school sweethearts' from the eigth grade up to senior year. When senior year fell upon them, a tragic thing happened and Bernie's mother died. When that happened, Bernie's life kind of went down hill. He decided not to go to college but stay work with his father. All through high school, he and Winifred never wanted to fit in, so they never did the 'in' things. When Winifred went off to college, she went to Santa Barbara, California and left Bernie. While in college, she began to change. Bernie couldn't live with out her so he went to Santa Barbara and noticed the change. The rest of the book is also fascinating, but if you want to know whether or not they end up together, read the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is too cute. i would say it's okay, but not all that great. the story line is strong though. it's about a boy & a girl who grew up together 'they were losers' and when they decide to go to college together, his mother dies of cancer. it's still a good read though, i would say this is worth reading.