...I picked up the book and read its back cover -- it seemed like fluffy romance to me. I was about to put it back when I realised that the author was Wendelin Van Draanen. Being a huge Sammy Keyes fan, I decided that even if it WAS fluff, it would be worth a read. And so I bought it. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but by the time I finished it (less than two days, if I remember correctly -- I couldn't put it down) I'd fallen in love with Bryce and Juli, Bryce's grandfather Chet, Juli's father, even Juli's brothers. The book has a little romance in it, but not as much as the book's cover made it out to be. It is not a romance by any means; instead, it is a book about growing up -- but the concept is presented in a modern, real, noncondescending way. The book is downright funny many times, but poignant and serious at others. The chapter when Juli visits her uncle made an impression on me in particular, as well as the chapter when Bryce finally begins to "see" people -- his father, his grandfather, and at last, Juli. Though the Sammy Keyes books are well-written, Ms. Van Draanen has absolutely proved (to me, at least) that she is much more than a writer who merely entertains. It takes a very talented writer to cause the reader to become involved in the story, to care about the characters. It takes a gifted writer to involve the reader in the story and characters, to show the change the characters go through in the story, and to really make the reader -think-. Ms. Van Draanen is a gifted writer. Bryce's change is not only touching, but believable; Juli is not the know-it-all she seems to be, but a deep and beautiful young woman. And the story makes the reader question his or her own way of living -- a "fakeness" that I have been seeing in people so much more acutely as I grow up. I cannot recommend this book enough. Wonderful job, Ms. Van Draanen, on a truly wonderful book.
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