Reviewed by Melanie Jacobson
As a former middle school English teacher, I had the best excuse in the world for reading young adult literature as much as I wanted. I found some great books in the five years that I taught. One sure-fire hit with both boys and girls is a fun story from Wendelin Van Draanen, author of the Sammy Keyes mysteries. Her novel Flipped branches into a different genre; it’s a little bit of romance, quite a bit of humor, and a lot of coming of age.
The story focuses on Juli Baker and Bryce Loski who are (at least on Bryce’s part) reluctant neighbors. She’s the bane of his existence but he’s the apple of her eye. She falls madly in love with him when the Bakers move in across the street during the kids’ second grade year. That’s the same day Bryce pinpoints as the start of all his troubles. Van Draanen uses the interesting device of relating the same incident through each character’s point-of-view. You hear about an infamous hair smelling incident from Juli, who views it as the culmination of a long-held wish, and then from Bryce for whom the experience is mortifying. The opinions they each have of each other stay the same as they grow until they reach eighth grade. That’s when free-spirited, big hearted Juli wonders if Bryce is less than she’s cracked him up to be and Bryce begins to realize that Juli might be a whole lot more.
There are several layers to this story which is why so many of my students enjoyed it. It was one of only two novels that they begged to continue when we finished with our assigned pages each day. The girls like the romance of the ungettable boy and the boys related to Bryce who is a realistically depicted eighth grade guy. He’s a dude’s dude. They all loved the humor that’s laced throughout. But my adult friends found it engaging too, because the layers go way past an adolescent love story. While the refreshing switch in perspective in each chapter is enough to keep the pages turning, it’s really the deeper dynamics that kept my attention. There are complicated and poignant relationships with characters like Juli’s artist father and Bryce’s taciturn grandfather. And there are key lessons about maintaining and respecting individuality and learning to suspend judgment. This is a completely satisfying read.
(Best suited for 7th grade and up).