Nobody Was Here: 7th grade in the Life of Me, Penelope

Overview


In a debut that lives somewhere between Harriet the Spy and Judy Blume, Alison Pollet brings us the story of Penelope, who's having trouble at home and at her fancy New York private school.

It's 1981, and nothing is going right in Penelope's life. She has just started seventh grade at Elston Prep, and she and her best friend Stacey aren't getting along. Stacy is all caught up in who's wearing what to whose Bar Mitzvah, and has even become friends with Annabella and Pia, two of ...

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Overview


In a debut that lives somewhere between Harriet the Spy and Judy Blume, Alison Pollet brings us the story of Penelope, who's having trouble at home and at her fancy New York private school.

It's 1981, and nothing is going right in Penelope's life. She has just started seventh grade at Elston Prep, and she and her best friend Stacey aren't getting along. Stacy is all caught up in who's wearing what to whose Bar Mitzvah, and has even become friends with Annabella and Pia, two of the biggest snobs at Elston! At home, things are no better: there's a new mother's helper to contend with, and Penelope's little brother Nathaniel just won't leave her alone. And when her parents are at home--which is rare--all they do is fight.

Life in New York in the 1980s is made more difficult for a middle school girl by problems at home and at school.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in 1981 at an elite New York City private school, Pollet's (When I Was a Girl) first novel trenchantly evokes middle school social life in all its hazards and perplexities. Penelope Schwartzbaum has just entered seventh grade at Elston Prep, where her homeroom teacher welcomes everyone by saying, "This year we're going to try and break you." Penelope already imagines herself breaking, "snapping in half like one of the Number 2 pencils in the front pouch of her backpack." She's growing away from her socially savvy best friend, Stacy, but knows that a best friend is crucial to survival. And her parents are too busy advancing their careers (and going out-just what is Penelope's mother up to with that handsome younger client?) to pay much attention. Confusion in algebra pales next to Penelope's dazed response to the social dynamics. When the most powerful girl in class demands that Penelope and Stacy sign "The Pledge" to snub new kids, Penelope adds her name in "scratchy, minuscule letters" ("If it wasn't really her signature, it wasn't really her, right?"). Graffiti erupts around school, denouncing the girls behind The Pledge; Pollet expertly lays out the clues and leaves it to readers to deduce that Penelope is the author. Pollet gets all the details right, from how a clique attacks a victim to the trappings of a fancy bat mitzvah, and then delves beneath the surface to explore the pressures on the protagonists and even their parents, delivering a full-bodied and compassionate work. Ages 10-13. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Penelope Schwartzbaum, seventh grader and self-proclaimed misfit finds this to be her coming of age year, and it comes none too smoothly! To begin with, her report card from sixth grade (blatantly prominent for all to see) indicates her tendency to drift off. Now she has fallen asleep on the bus ride for her very first day of middle school. Even her best friend Stacy does not seem to "match" any more. Penelope's first eleven years were so much friendlier. Why was life so hard now? Current seventh grade readers may see snippets of themselves in this work and realize that being a pre-teen is difficult at times and that's all right. Maybe they are supposed to feel that way. Penelope eventually comes to terms with herself, her family and her friends—old and new. She and her friends are well defined and engage in typical girl-y behavior. Other characters in this story are not as clearly presented, leaving us to wonder just who those people are. The main characters stand apart, but Pollet names even the most obscure members in her work, which can get cumbersome remembering who is who. In general, a very good read for the junior high set and for that all-girl book discussion group. 2004, Orchard Books/Scholastic, Ages 9 to 12.
—Elizabeth Young
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-It's 1981, and Penelope Schwartzbaum is starting seventh grade at an elite New York prep school. She finds herself thinking "bad thoughts"-thoughts that include a sense that she no longer fits together with her best friend, and suspicions that her mother's involvement with her latest client might be the kind of involvement that leads to divorce. School is a nightmare of never knowing what to do or how to think; the in-crowd has too many rules, from what to wear to who to talk to, and Penelope feels so lost that she is rapidly becoming a nobody. However, a new friendship with oddball but entirely genuine Cass provides a welcome distraction and allows Penelope to regain her sense of self and start becoming somebody. The prose is utilitarian and often reminiscent of the gossipy but omniscient narrative of Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series or Lisi Harrison's The Clique (2004, both Little, Brown), including brand names scattered across the pages. Today's 12-year-olds might not understand why white Tretorns are so important; on the other hand, the time period might provide some insight into the world their mothers occupied. Overall, this is a satisfying story about early adolescence that doesn't break any new ground, but that won't disappoint readers.-Karyn N. Silverman, LREI-Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In an Upper East Side private school, a status-conscious, label-conscious, preppy 1981, Penelope Rosenberg is confronting the ambiguities of 12 going on 13. She's arrived in the memorable territory of cliques, mean girls, and growing up, when simple friendships can be transformed by some girls into weapons-or liabilities. As her elementary-school classmates from Elston rush ahead into seventh grade, Penelope finds herself trailing the pack. One bullying girl dictates to the rest that kids new to Elston be spurned, and Penelope is startled to discover that her feelings oppose this, and that she's ambivalent about her long-time "best" friendship. She develops a tenuous friendship outside of school with a somewhat eccentric, individualistic classmate. Pollet's light-hearted rendering of surface concerns (is it okay to buy earrings that match the alpha girl's?) gives way to deeper currents in which Penelope finds herself trying to stay afloat. One classmate is made a scapegoat and literally marked by a mob of girls wielding felt-tip pens; Penelope suspects that her mother's new "friendship" is really an affair; she realizes that deciding to part from the dictating mob will be painful. Light, but sturdy middle-school fare. (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439583947
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/18/2004
  • Series: Nobody Was Here
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.82 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2005

    It Was Great

    I'm about to go into seventh grade and thought this had great lessons hidden inside.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2009

    This Book Is Amazing!

    Oh my! This book is absolutly FABULOUS!! Really I mean it it is great. It's better for a younger age about 10 or so. I definetly cryed yes I did. It's a very part about Tilly. Yeah the name are strange, Penlope, Tilly, Cass, you get the point. But it's a very well written book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    It was AWESOME!

    I would recommend this book to anyone. Whether they liked to read or not. It would be a great start on the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2006

    Pretty Good

    This book was okay. Probably something I would not read at first but it kind of got better as I kept reading, but it does not take you long to get into the story. When I started reading it I did not like it at all, but then I got pulled into the story. I would really reccomend reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2005

    not very good...dont waste your money

    i didnt get this book at all. the plot was confusing and the authour left things for you to figure out. dont even waste your money on it....there are better books out there.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2004

    GREW ON ME

    At first I was not feeling this book at all. Iwas like ''ick, I just spent all this money on an autographer, hard cover for this!''. Then I was like ''Oh, I spent all this money 4 thisss!''. Very cool book lol

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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