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What I Believe Hardcover – October 1, 2005

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–Vicki's life is turned upside down when her father loses his job, becomes despondent, and eventually leaves the family. She reveals her innermost thoughts through poems and journal entries that tell the story of change–a new neighborhood, new school, new friends, and a once-secure life that is becoming more and more uncertain. Readers are drawn into the girl's struggle to right her impulsive decision to steal money, and they will identify with the anguish Vicki faces each day, trying to be normal and hiding the facts of her home life and changed financial situation. The format and the contemporary setting make this an appealing story for both strong and reluctant readers. Those who enjoyed Sonya Sones's What My Mother Doesn't Know (2001) and Margaret Peterson Haddix's Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey (1996, both S & S) will be taken with the novel's free-flowing style and revelations.–Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Composed in a variety of poetic and narrative verse forms, this describes a middle-school girl's reaction to her family's financial fall. Vicki Marnet's father, laid off almost two years ago, is profoundly depressed. Crippling debt forces the family to sell their home and move from an upper-middle-class suburb to a cramped apartment in the city. While Vicki's mother and older brothers try to make the best of it, Vicki struggles to master the dramatic changes in her life. Although a venturesome work and certainly readable, form tends to trump function here: the verse upstages the story in parts and contributes to Vicki's voice sounding alternately babyish and sage. The book's blurb highlights a "terrible" thing she's done to cope with her difficulties; however, this action proves anticlimactic. The significant decline in circumstance that Vicki experiences with her family is the real heart of the story, and that is what will touch readers, especially those who have lived through that particular agony themselves. Holly Koelling
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152014624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152014629
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,897,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This story of children affected by a drastic change in their family's income is a unique and timely one. Teens who have gone or are going through the difficulties of massive transition precipitated by forces outside of their control will relate to Vicki's struggles.

Mazer's use of a breadth of poetic forms is impressive. Equally impressive, she doesn't compromise depth of feeling or characterization as she weaves her story from Vicki's poems and reflections. This book communicates -- originally and without didacticism -- that although everything doesn't always work out how we want it to, we can keep loving each other in all our imperfection. Admitting our errors is the only way to find peace and resolution. If we don't, we don't allow ourselves to receive the love and support we need from family and friends.

Sara, who becomes Vicki's new friend, is an especially likeable character, and one of my favorite poems in this book was "Sara Stuns Me with Three Questions." As a biracial person, I loved discovering a character whose looks belie her racial identity!

Mazer has delivered another solid book for young people that can be enjoyed by adults, too. Don't be surprised if you're inspired to try writing some poetry after reading What I Believe.
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Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of Mazer for probably 20 years now. Her ability to describe awkward, in-ward thinking teen girls is unmatched. Her descriptions of families and their dysfunctions, imperfections, and struggles is always enjoyable to read. This book left me disappointed, however. The whole thing is laid out like a journal, a collection of poems and letters and random thoughts. It never seems to GO anywhere, though. The main character's father gets laid off, her family falls on hard times, they have to move into a city apartment, her dad walks out, she changes schools, she learns what it's like to go from having everything to having very little... and that's it. There's no climax, there's no direction. It's a plesant, amusing, touching read, but it just never goes anywhere. It's like the build-up to a good book that gets cut off prematurely. For the best of Mazer's novels, I would recommend "After The Rain", "Silver", and "When We First Met".
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