I’LL BE THERE by Holly Goldberg Sloan was always on my list of books to read because of the interesting plot summary and the appealing cover art but I never got around to it, so I had to change that this time around when her second book, COUNTING BY 7s, racked up even more starred reviews (four, I believe). I find this a very strong book, not least of all because it contributes to a couple of our running discussions (more on that later). Oh, and yes, it also stacks up quite nicely against the Newbery criteria.
I found the writing style extremely funny, insightful, and engaging, whether the story was being narrated from Willow’s first person viewpoint or from the various third person viewpoints–and the juxtaposition of the two creates narrative interest. I liked every single character in this book; they all seemed real, and funny, and warm. I did become less interested in the second half of the book, and I’m not sure why. Did the pacing–my Achilles heel, it would seem–bog down for me? Did I miss the focus on Willow herself rather than the focus on solving her problems? I’m not sure. What I do know is that this is easily one of the better middle grade novels I’ve read this year, and it deserves a place in this conversation.
We’ve been talking recently about books that are too old for the Newbery, and I’ll be curious to know if there are any concerns on that front in regard to this book. While the main character is twelve, the other two young characters are in high school, and the remaining characters are adults. Certainly, not as old as FAR FAR AWAY, but still worth talking about as long as we’re discussing the age question.
And you may remember back to our discussion of NAVIGATING EARLY that there are several high profile titles this year that include a character that appears to be on the autism spectrum. Those others being THE THING ABOUT LUCK, AL CAPONE DOES MY HOMEWORK, THE REAL BOY, and this. Each autistic characterization is distinctly different and taken together I think they provide a fairly well-rounded picture of what the spectrum includes. THE REAL BOY and COUNTING BY 7s both have autistic main characters (whereas the others have secondary characters) so I think these two are probably the most ripe for a head-to-head comparison. What do you think? Which characterization felt more distinguished?