I admit up front that I was biased going into this book – I have loved everything Jordan Sonnenblick has written, and as a teacher, have a warm place in my heart for him since he offered to give me advice on a student when I was new to the profession.
That being said, THIS BOOK ROCKS. We all remember how much eighth grade can suck, right? Well, Claire’s eighth grade year isn’t going too well. There are mean girls in her homeroom, a boy she used to be friends with who somehow became her enemy and has been so all through middle school, and her dance friends were moved up into the high school classes early, while Claire stayed behind in the “baby” dance classes. Her older brother Matthew is the perfect son – perfect athlete, perfect student, perfect boyfriend – and Claire just can’t catch a break. In fact, one night, she yells at her father (what teenage girl hasn’t?) and tells him maybe he needs to struggle some more after he tries to lift her spirits by cracking some jokes. The next morning over breakfast, a medical emergency strikes her father, and not only is Claire wracked by guilt, now her whole world has tilted on its axis.
Sonnenblick is incredibly skilled at taking serious medical topics (pediatric cancer in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie) and adding just enough wit and humor that the story makes you cry not from depression, but from the sheer joy of the writing. Claire’s interactions with her family, friends, frenemies, and enemies are realistic and have true depth. I cried a couple of times in the reading of this book. You’ll have to read it yourself to see where, but trust me – Falling Over Sideways is another Sonnenblick winner. And no, he didn’t pay me to write this review.
Though this is young YA – Claire is still in middle school – I would still recommend it highly. A skillfully woven story with beautiful humor to balance out the struggles of the characters as they try to rebuild their life with a Dad that’s not quite who he was before the medical emergency that changes . . . well, everything.