The chapters of this clever novel alternate between two narratorsJulianna and Brycewho meet after first grade when they become neighbors. Julianna takes to Bryce immediately, but he dislikes her eagerness to become friends and avoids her for years. Then in middle school, he sees her with new eyes as smart, entrepreneurial and committed to what she believes in. Telling incidents and perfectly pitched middle-school voices reveal how these characters' positions flip.
Two distinct, thoroughly likable voices emerge in Van Draanen's (the Sammy Keyes series) enticing story, relayed alternately by eighth graders Bryce and Juli. When Juli moved in across the street from Bryce, just before second grade, he found the feisty, friendly girl overwhelming and off-putting, and tried to distance himself from her but then eighth grade rolls around. Within the framework of their complex, intermittently antagonistic and affectionate rapport, the author shapes insightful portraits of their dissimilar families. Among the most affecting supporting characters are Bryce's grandfather, who helps Juli spruce up her family's eyesore of a yard after Bryce makes an unkind remark about the property, and Juli's father, a deep-feeling artist who tries to explain to his daughter how a painting becomes more than the sum of its parts. Juli finally understands this notion after she discovers the exhilaration of sitting high in a beloved tree in her neighborhood ("The view from my sycamore was more than rooftops and clouds and wind and colors combined"). Although the relationship between Bryce's grandfather and his own family remains a bit sketchy, his growing bond with Juli is credibly and poignantly developed. A couple of coincidences are a bit convenient, but Van Draanen succeeds in presenting two entirely authentic perspectives on the same incidents without becoming repetitious. With a charismatic leading lady kids will flip over, a compelling dynamic between the two narrators and a resonant ending (including a clever double entendre on the title), this novel is a great deal larger than the sum of its parts. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Middle schoolers Bryce and Juli, neighbors since they were seven, recount their tortured relationship in alternating chapters. Van Draanen departs from her series of mysteries featuring Sammy Keyes to explore the mystery of relationships with emotional and social honesty. Juli is a highly principled, energetic girl who throws herself not only at potential friends; like the unwilling Bryce; but also, in later years, at projects that would, indeed, make the world a better place: protesting the destruction of an ancient tree to make way for new construction, getting to know her developmentally disabled uncle, nominating the classmate who is nice but unpopular to a position of notice. Bryce, for his part, first learns how to avoid Juli, and what he perceives as her extravagances, from the same father whom he later realizes is a teacher of duplicity and avoidance. A strong cast of characters, including Bryce's grandfather and the protagonists' own siblings and classmates, adds depth and scope to the underlying but well integrated themes of honesty as the best policy and maturity bringing new insights into what seemed to be problems. Van Draanen offers Bryce and Juli's peers much to consider, in a package that makes the consideration enjoyable. KLIATT Codes: J*; Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Random House, Knopf, 212p.,
Bryce moves into the neighborhood and straight into Juli's heart, all before second grade. Juli's world is turned upside down trying to win his boyish affections. Her attempts continue through the seventh grade and include giving him answers to tests, giving his family eggs from her chickens and befriending his grandfather. In the meantime, Bryce, not appreciating the adoration she has for him, only sees her as a nuisance and tries to have as little to do with her as possible. His ploys only make Juli angry and eventually he lies to her and hurts her feelings. By the time Bryce realizes he is fond of Juli and apologizes for his behavior, they are in the eighth grade. Juli is hesitant about Bryce's change of heart at this point and finds herself getting over him. The author provides added enjoyment by giving readers the story from both Juli's and Bryce's point of view. A story about the ups and downs of childhood puppy love, it is primarily for teens but will have adults reminiscing as well. 2001, Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99. Ages 12 to 16. Reviewer: Michele Wilbur
Neighbors Bryce Loski and Juli Baker have flipped for each other. Well, not exactly. In second grade, Juli was dazzled by his blue eyes, but Bryce ran whenever he saw her coming. Six years later, Juli is enamored still and Bryce still runs in the opposite direction. Now, however, their feelings for each other have flip-flopped thanks to some chickens, Bryce's grandfather, Juli's mentally challenged uncle, and a sycamore tree. Now Bryce finds Juli strangely different somehow, but Juli thinks Bryce is a coward and a sneak. Bryce and Juli tell their story in alternating chapters and speak through surprisingly sophisticated vocabularies of preadolescent angst, family problems, and the vicissitudes of junior high relationships. Van Draanen, known for her Sammy Keye mysteries, crowds her work with themes, subplots, and enough fiction devices for any six novels. Her characters are cardboard stereotypes in black-and-white hats. The reader will never have difficulty distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys. Bryce's grandfather is a flawless font of almost mystical wisdom, whereas his father is an overbearing and insensitive bully. Initially, the author appears to have planned an amusing take on the girl-pursues-boy-who-hates-girls-until-puberty story, but apparently she changed her mind suddenly and decided to write a multiproblem novel about family tensions, economic difficulties, acceptance, and mental retardation. Sadly, she succeeds at neither. VOYA CODES:3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects;Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Knopf, 212p, $14.95. PLB $16.99. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer:JamieHansenVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Van Draanen has another winner in this eighth-grade "he-said, she-said" romance told in alternating chapters by two teens who describe how their feelings change about themselves and each other. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was in second grade. Not much changes until eighth grade, when Juli's enthusiastic infatuation wanes just as Bryce's begins to kick in. Like the author's intelligent, gutsy, quirky heroine Sammy Keyes, Juli is fresh, distinctive, and different. After raising chickens for a science-fair experiment, she can't bear to part with "her girls," and begins an egg business. When she learns that Bryce, fearful because her yard is so unclean, has been throwing out the free eggs she has been giving his family for two years, she is devastated and begins to see him in a new light. At the same time, Bryce learns that Juli's family's devoted care of her mentally challenged uncle is what makes them seem poor. Right from the upside-down chick on the book's cover, there's lots of laugh-out-loud egg puns and humor in this novel. There's also, however, a substantial amount of serious social commentary woven in, as well as an exploration of the importance of perspective in relationships. Well-rounded secondary characters keep subplots rolling in this funny, fast-paced, egg-cellent winner.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Proof that the course of pubescent love never runs smooth. When Bryce and Julianna (Juli) meet, they are both seven and Bryce has just moved in across the street. For Juli, it is love at first sight: "The day I first met Bryce Loski, I flipped. Honestly, one look at him and I became a lunatic. It's his eyes." As far as Bryce is concerned, the feeling is definitely not mutual: "All I've ever wanted is for Juli Baker to leave me alone. For her to back off-you know, just give me some space." Six years after their meeting, Bryce is something of a judgmental priss (just like his father), and Juli is full of passion and enthusiasm for life. But in their eighth-grade year, Juli's fight to save an old tree from being cut down causes Bryce to look at Juli with growing admiration-just at the same time that Juli finally realizes that Bryce's character does not measure up to his eyes. The story is told in both voices, in alternating chapters that develop from a sort of "he said, she said" dialogue into an exploration of perception, misapprehension, and context. Van Draanen (Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy Mystery, 2000, etc.) deftly manages the difficult task of establishing and maintaining the reader's sympathy with both characters. The text stretches credibility in a couple of ways, especially with the premise that a seven-year-old is capable of a long-lasting romantic infatuation. It is, nevertheless, a highly agreeable romantic comedy tempered with the pointed lesson (demonstrated by the straining of Bryce's parents' marriage) that the "choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life." (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
“Van Draanen has another winner in this eighth-grade ‘he-said, she-said’ romance.”
–School Library Journal, Starred review
“We flipped over this fantastic book.”
–The Chicago Tribune
“Delightful! Delicious! And totally teen.” BookPage
“With a charismatic leading lady kids will flip over, a compelling dynamic betweenthe two narrators and a resonant ending, this novel is a great deal larger than the sum of its parts.” Publishers Weekly, Starred review
Read an Excerpt
All I've ever wanted is for Juli Baker to leave me alone For her to back off-you know, just give me some space.
It all started the summer before second grade when our moving van pulled into her neighborhood. And since we're now about done with the eighth grade, that, my friend, makes more than half a decade of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.
She didn't just barge into my life. She barged and shoved and wedged her way into my life. Did we invite her to get into our moving van and start climbing all over boxes? No! But that's exactly what she did, taking over and showing off like only Juli Baker can.
My dad tried to stop her. "Hey!" he says as she's catapulting herself on board. "What are you doing? You're getting mud everywhere!" So true, too. Her shoes were, like, caked with the stuff.
She didn't hop out, though. Instead, she planted her rear end on the floor and started pushing a big box with her feet. "Don't you want some help?" She glanced my Way. "It sure looks like you need it."
I didn't like the implication. And even though my dad had been tossing me the same sort of look all week, I could tell-he didn't like this girl either. "Hey! Don't do that," he warned her. "There are some really valuable things in that box."
"Oh. Well, how about this one?" She scoots over to a box labeled LENox and looks my way again. "We should push it together!"
"No, no, no!" my dad says, then pulls her up by the arm. "Why don't you run along home? Your mother's probably wondering where you are."
This was the beginning of my soon-to-become-acute awareness that the girl cannot take a hint. Of any kind. Does she zip on home like a kid should when they've been invited to leave No. She says, "Oh, my mom knows where I am. She said it was fine." Then she points across the street and says, "We just live right over there."
My father looks to where she's pointing and mutters "Oh boy." Then he looks at me and winks as he says, "Bryce, isn't it time for you to go inside and help your mother?"
I knew right off that this was a ditch play. And I didn't think about it until later, but ditch wasn't a play I'd run with my dad before. Face it, pulling a ditch is not something discussed with dads. It's like, against parental law to tell your kid it's okay to ditch someone, no matter how annoying or muddy they might be.
But there he was, putting the play in motion, and man, he didn't have to wink twice. I smiled and said, "Sure thing!" then jumped off the liftgate and headed for my new front door.
I heard her coming after me but I couldn't believe it. Maybe it just sounded like she was chasing me; maybe she was really going the other way. But before I got up the nerve to look, she blasted right past me, grabbing my arm and yanking me along.
This was too much. I planted myself and was about to tell her to get lost when the weirdest thing happened. I was making this big windmill motion to break away from her, but somehow on the downswing my hand wound up tangling into hers. I couldn't believe it. There I was, holding the mud monkey's hand!
I tried to shake her off, but she just clamped on tight and yanked me along, saying, "C'mon!"
My mom came out of the house and immediately got the world's sappiest look on her face. "Well, hello," she says to Juli.
I'm still trying to pull free, but the girl's got me in a death grip. My mom's grinning, looking at our hands and my fiery red face. "And what's your name, honey?"
"Julianna Baker. I live right over there," she says, pointing with her unoccupied hand.
"Well, I see you've met my son," she says, still grinning away.
Finally I break free and do the only manly thing available when you're seven years old-I dive behind my mother.
Mom puts her arm around me and says, "Bryce, honey, why don't you show Julianna around the house?"
I flash her help and warning signals with every part of my body, but she's not receiving. Then she shakes me off and says, "Go on."
Juli would've tramped right in if my mother hadn't noticed her shoes and told her to take them off. And after those were off, my mom told her that her dirty socks had to go, too. Juli wasn't embarrassed. Not a bit. She just peeled them off and left them in a crusty heap on our porch.
I didn't exactly give her a tour. I locked myself in the bathroom instead. And after about ten minutes of yelling back at her that no, I wasn't coming out anytime soon, things got quiet out in the hall. Another ten minutes went by before I got the nerve to peek out the door.
From the Hardcover edition.