When she isn't dreaming about Bruno Mars, overweight 15-year-old Leah Lobermeir longs to be a doctor, despite her alcoholic mother's warnings not to "fly too high." Fielding bullies and name-calling from classmates and her friend Kristy, whose mother is dying of cancer, Leah maintains good grades and a low profile until an encounter with "Mr. Corduroy," an older man who frequents the Hilton, Colo., 7-Eleven. On the phone with Mr. Corduroy, Leah escapes her reality and invisibility by pretending to be Ashley, a version of Kristy. When she makes friends with Anita—an artist who lost her mother in a car accident, just as Leah lost her father—Leah experiences unconditional friendship and support for the first time. With help from Anita and a possible boyfriend, Leah knows she must confront Mr. Corduroy, now stalking Kristy; when she does, it turns ugly, resulting in a situation that changes Leah and those who love her. Debut author Wills empathetically illustrates Leah's predicament, immobilized in poverty and relentlessly bullied. Notwithstanding stirring minor character portrayals, though, Leah's personality and distinct voice never surface completely. Ages 14–up. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi, Inc. (Sept.)
A melancholy, memorable piece tackling shame, unkindness, poverty, and, finally, hope.
Wills’s first novel is a realistic portrayal of small-town life, friendship feuds, family issues, and relationships gone wrong...The blend of danger, romance, and family and relationship issues makes for an ultimately satisfying read. With frenemies and intrigue, new friends, strong characters, and a well-developed plot, this is a worthwhile purchase.
—School Library Journal
In a promising debut, Wills brings all manner of flawed characters to life as 16-year-old Leah Lobermeir relates her journey from being the helpless butt of fat jokes into someone slightly less vulnerable...For readers of realistic fiction, Leah's distinctive voice is spot on.
—School Library Connection
Debut author Wills empathetically illustrates Leah's predicament, immobilized in poverty and relentlessly bullied.
Someone I Wanted to Be tells the story of a realistic character struggling with a bad self-image and feelings of low self-worth. Leah’s character transforms throughout the book as she begins to surround herself with other characters who see her value beyond her physical appearance...This novel will appeal to teens who enjoy gritty, realistic fiction authors similar to Ellen Hopkins.
Gr 9 Up—Best friends Leah, Kristy, and Corinne spend weekend nights looking for someone older to buy them beer and partying with their friends. There isn't much else to do in Hilton, CO. Corinne and Kristy are pretty; Leah is overweight. All three have difficult home lives. When an older guy who buys them beer wants to hook up with Kristy and gives her his phone number, Leah decides to call him and pretend that she is Kristy. Things begin to spiral out of control when Kristy gets mad at Leah, and Leah, partially because of loneliness, continues to chat and text with "Mr. Corduroy" even more frequently. For a while, the deception is fun and a way to "get even" with Kristy, but as it becomes more intense, Leah realizes that both she and Kristy are in danger. Wills's first novel is a realistic portrayal of small-town life, friendship feuds, family issues, and relationships gone wrong. The story, at times intense and painful, shows how Leah's strength of will, her dream of becoming a doctor, and the encouragement of new friendships enable her to overcome ostracism, bullying because of her weight, and her poor choices, to become a strong, independent person. The blend of danger, romance, and family and relationship issues makes for an ultimately satisfying read. VERDICT With frenemies and intrigue, new friends, strong characters, and a well-developed plot, this is a worthwhile purchase.—Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas, Denton
A teen tries to escape a miserable existence by posing as someone else.The window in 15-year-old Leah’s bedroom in her shabby basement apartment has “thick black bars and a window well full of garbage, dead leaves, and spiders.” She’s harassed for being fat; her mother gets drunk on wine nightly and smirks that Leah’s desire to become a doctor makes her “pretty big for [her] britches.” So when Kurt King, who’s at least 26, wants to talk to her skinny, blonde friend Kristy over the phone, Leah calls him instead and pretends to be Kristy. In Leah’s mind, she’s a third girl: not Kristy, whose cruel, heartless friendship is “an addiction, sort of like smoking,” nor herself, with her “huge billowing emptiness” inside. During phone conversations with Kurt King, Leah feels alive —though she knows he’s dangerous. Wills describes gritty physical detail without romance or drama, from Leah’s shabby apartment and the bleak, desolate downtown of Hilton, Colorado, to how sick Leah feels as she quits smoking. Leah makes two new friends—Anita, who’s probably Mexican-American, and Carl, who’s white like Leah and Kristy—and treats them deplorably out of guilt, confusion, and habit; their steadfast forgiveness helps her through an assault and to an ending that, while absolutely unidealized, has clear possibility. A melancholy, memorable piece tackling shame, unkindness, poverty, and, finally, hope. (14 & up)