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What's in a Name Paperback – August 21, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wittlinger (Hard Love) convincingly creates 10 distinct teen voices, each of which takes a turn narrating a chapter. While the chapters offer readers only a glimpse of each character, several of them feature in the other teens' accounts, and bittersweet, even piercing musings run through many of the narratives ("It's as if my emotions are twice the size of normal people's," says one character, pained by unrequited love. "I'm the Arnold Schwarzenegger of sensitivity"). The vignettes rally around a rather tenuous theme--everyone in Scrub Harbor is caught up in a war over the town's name. The wealthy population, the "Follys," wants to change it to the more elegant Folly Bay, hoping to add value to their real estate; the poorer families, the "Scrubs," want to maintain their traditions. Yet the teens' cogent reflections fortify the volume. They reveal what runs deeper than their "Folly" or "Scrub" moniker. The dialogue can feel like forced teen-speak in spots ("You talk like a frigging moron. Get a life, why don'tcha," the football star yells at his younger brother), but readers will likely respond to the realism of both the characters and their dilemmas. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-A subtle and completely realistic novel told in multiple voices. What starts out as a quest to change a small town's name turns into personal journeys of self-discovery for 10 teens. The ongoing debate about which name is best for the town, Scrub Harbor or Folly Bay, lightly overlays the main story line, while the characters struggle to hold their lives together and figure out who they really are. One boy faces the fact that he is gay and chooses to "come out" via a poem published in the school literary magazine, while his football-star jock of an older brother is forced to deal with being irrevocably linked to his brother. An angry girl thaws with the help of a Brazilian exchange student, who in turn realizes that the language barrier helps rather than hinders his understanding of humans in general, and himself in particular. A transferring senior realizes that he isn't the popular boy he used to be at his old school, and must reinvent himself to find his place in Scrub Harbor. The fact that these teens are all struggling to find out who they are, and that everybody is constantly in flux, becomes the main theme that links all of these seemingly unconnected narrative threads together. The teenagers are compelling, and there's more depth to them and the story than readers might expect from the simplistic title.
Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416984828
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416984825
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,192,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellen Wittlinger is the author of fifteen YA and middle-grade novels. Her novel Hard Love won both a Printz Honor Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Her books have been on numerous ALA Best Books lists, Bank Street College of Education lists and state award lists. Ellen has won state awards in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Her work has been translated into many other languages including Turkish, Croatian and Korean. She has taught at Emerson College in Boston and in the Simmons College Writing for Children MFA program.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "katezilla" on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ellen Wittlinger has written some truly wonderful young-adult novels, and WHAT'S IN A NAME lives up to the standards set by her other books. The format here is slightly different from her others: ten different characters tell their own stories while also contributing to the overarching plot, which concerns the efforts of some of the residents of Scrub Harbor to change the town's name to Folly Bay. As always, Wittlinger's stories are character-driven, so the plot never seems contrived; she also has a knack for making you sympathize with characters that you probably didn't think you would like. For me, this happened with the characters of Quincy and Gretchen, both "popular" kids in their high school. I expected their stories to be less interesting than the other characters', who are a little quirkier, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Quincy's and Gretchen's stories drew me in just as much as those of the other kids.
I have to disagree with one of the editorial reviews, which said that the characters all seemed defined by their circumstances. In my opinion, one of Wittlinger's strengths is that she never allows her characters to just be caricatures. As I said above, they have their quirks, some more than others, but in the end, they are all real (and interesting) people.
I highly recommend WHAT'S IN A NAME.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book really potraits the different sides and things that teenagers go trough. I got this book from a friend of mine and I totally fell in love with this book. As a teenager, it is a very great book to read and see other people like you with their own little problems.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on April 3, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read the bulk of What's In a Name? in one sitting. The story is actually 8 chapters - 1 narrator per chapter - and set in a small town which is debating over changing its name. Each story has a character exploring his or her identity and the meaning of their popularity, sexuality, long term boyfriends/girlfriends, family, friends, school, future and so forth.
It was a very quick and enjoyable read. I enjoyed Ellen's writing style. The teens were thoughtful, not vacant; they spoke like kids but also didn't say "like" or curse every other line. I only wish there had been one final wrap-up chapter to catch us up one last time with all of the characters we had met. However, I like the book as a hold and recommended to friends who liked small town coming-of-age novels.
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By MC on April 24, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The theme of finding out who you are is evident in each of the different narrators on the chapters of What's in a Name. Wittlinger creates 10 different views of who-am-I through different high school students.

Having each chapter written by a different narrator is like reading a series of related short stories. And while I find it enjoyable to see the connections through the different characters and find it exciting when one I'd put out of my mind returns, I would have preferred to see a few of the characters narrate more than one chapter. The opening character Georgie comes on strong and then is absent for much of the story. The huge weight of O'Neill's story is a minor backdrop for one character and then thankfully comes up again with brother Quincy.

The best portion of this book were the Nadia-Nelson-Shaquanda chapters where all three of them played off each other, giving the reader a real sense of each of these teenagers. Where Shaquanda comes off as cold and closed-minded in Nelson's chapter, in her own chapter she is much clearer and well rounded. And where Nadia comes off as a Nelson chaser in Nelson's chapter, in her own she shines as her own individual.

The conclusion to the book couldn't be better. When Gretchen takes over the narration, the book turns to the prep whose mother is the source of the name change issue in town. I was not looking forward to her chapter. But Gretchen shows herself to be what we all are at that age: in search of ourselves. The big question of the book--who am I--is resolved in the only way it can be. We all are only who we are in the moment. As Gretchen says, "You think you know someone, but then they surprise you."
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Format: Paperback
Scrub Harbor? or Folly Bay? That is the arguement that is going on amongst a group of kids, each who have their own problems on and off of school. But this debate about changing the name of a small town has all the kids in an uproar. At home and at school. So much so, that they are taking sides against their friends, each other, and this is starting to be a real mess. Is the name of a town really so important? Well I guess you'll have to see.
Ellen Wittlinger's book is all about acceptance, and friendship and labels and how one cannot labels define who they are. Which is what the teenagers of this book are learning. I also like how this book takes place in different perspectives. Each chapter is each kids different perspective. I like that. This book is a short read, but a good book.
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A Kid's Review on October 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What's in a Name?

What's in a Name? by Ellen Willinger is a realistic fiction about ten seniors from Scrub Harbor High. Some of the richer people want to change the name of the town from Scrub Harbor to Folly Bay, the town was automatically split into two groups, the richer were Folly's and the poorer were Scrubs. A lot of people don't want to change the name because they have lived there they're entire life's. The main person that came up with the idea to change the name was a woman named Mimi and her daughter Gretchen. I like this book this book because it was written so that every chapter was a different student. It was also hard to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes realistic fiction, I really enjoyed it.
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