I seem to have hit a rough patch in my Top 100 Chapter Books project. This latest read, Flipped (2001) by Wendelin Van Draanen was at #92 on the list so it wasn’t incredibly popular but there were some people who listed it as a favorite. I truly have to wonder why.
What it’s about: The chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Bryce Loski and Julianne Baker from the age of 7 until 8th grade.
Age level: Grades 6-8
Best part: A set of truly loving parents.
Worst part: Calling a mentally-challenged adult “retarded” and “retard” many, many times and then giving him a non-descript mishmash of personality/emotional traits that come from many different conditions. A few moments of thoughtfulness and research would have improved this greatly.
I finished this book feeling quite underwhelmed. There were things that seemed like they belonged more in a YA novel than a chapter book (like Bryce’s dad accusing two teens of being drug dealers). There was also the strangeness of a book that focuses on what is eventually a potential romantic relationship between pre-teens. Multiple times the parents of these kids see a glimmer of attraction between them and give a knowing look or try to kindle the relationship and it’s frankly creepy, especially when it happens on the day they meet when the kids are only seven years old. Even Bryce’s grandpa implies that Bryce should appreciate Juli’s uniqueness and look at her differently, in the way grandpa did with grandma when he fell in love with her. This is when the kids are in SIXTH GRADE. The dialogue is also poorly written in places, using words and phrases that kids just wouldn’t use. It makes the story awkward, again like an adult speaking for children.
I did like seeing the events from two different points of view and I think the message that you shouldn’t judge someone else’s life without knowing their full story is always an important one for kids. Still, I’m sure there are better stories out there that touch on some of the same issues.
Thank goodness for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m so relieved to be reading it next!