Synopsis: Rissa feels like she’s not on the same path as her friends. She’s had the same BFF Beth since birth, as their moms ran into each other in the maternity ward the day they were born. Rissa gets Beth’s hand-me-downs and while they’re really friends, it’s definitely unequal. Besides that, Beth, Kerry, Angel and Jayne were way more interested in boys, shopping, and getting into mischief than Rissa was. They aren’t considerate of her at all: they held the annual joint b-day party at a pizza joint when Rissa has a tomato allergy. When they tease her about Brian, the nice nerd that walks into the restaurant during their party, Rissa tells them off. She hides out in the bathroom for the remainder of the party, essentially dumping her only friend group a week before middle school.
Rissa starts trying to figure out who she is. She rejects the birthday gift of ballet lessons (that she got because Beth was taking them), and asks to have violin lessons. (She is just as surprised as her parents.) She dyes some of Beth’s “gorgeous” clothes so she isn’t stuck with bright pink junk. She tries to make a new friend, Violet, but Violet’s more interested in books than friendship. Beth does a few friendly things, like save Rissa’s gnome from being trampled, but mostly, it’s just awkward.
Violet and Rissa work together on a project. Rissa accidentally eats a tomato and they have to take her to the emergency room, which is a pretty awful start to a friendship. After the near-death experience, the old posse tries to make nice with Rissa, but Rissa chooses Violet over them.
Halloween means a costume contest, Rissa’s mom sews her a fantastic Statue of Liberty costume. Rissa’s only competition for best costume was Brian, who dressed as a knight. When they tie for first, the jerks in the audience taunted them to kiss. In case he was thinking of it, she poked him and accidentally knocked him off the stage. Woops. She gets suspended, but her mom is angrier with the principal than Rissa.
Rissa and mom go shopping for a recital outfit and run into Beth and her mom. The reunion is nice, except we find out that Beth’s mom suggested to Rissa’s mom to get counseling for Rissa’s “anger issues” (blowing up at the party, poking Brian). The other girls in the “group” have fallen apart after Angel had a make-out party where Beth and Jayne felt uncomfortable. Beth also gives level-headed advice about apologizing to Brian.
At the violin concert, everything comes together. Rissa apologizes to Brian, who is just impressed that she thought he was the type to kiss her. Violet and Beth were cheering her on. And, well, for a moment anyway, everything was as it should be.
Here’s the deal: When I was in middle school, I was handed a list of classics every college-bound student should read. So, why did that become my reading list when I was 13? On occasion with this blog, I forget that I can pick up a book without a medal on it. I can pick up a book just because I like the title or because there’s a gnome on the cover. I’m allowed to pick up books just for fun. And, I forget how much fun reading a realistic, slice-of-life book about teenage life can be. I really enjoyed reading it. I read it in about 2 hours and it was just sweet. Why don’t I read more short, sweet, and cute books? I hope I’m not still a literary snob. Alas. I probably am still a snob, but I’m trying to break free.
I really felt for the characters. It’s tough growing up, ya know? Kids grow apart and ya can’t really do much for it. If it’s true friendship, it’ll last through the hard times. In my reading of YA/intermediate books, I’ve noticed: there’s always that one friend who’s going to be a jerk, no matter what. Then there’s always that one friend who always gets picked on. I didn’t say in the synopsis, but Angel is no angel. She’s usually the trouble maker: beer at a make-out party, playing keep-away with Rissa’s gnome, etc. Clearly, Rissa was getting dumped on. I was pretty proud when she dumped them first.
Grade: A This reminded me a lot of Judy Blume, where Comerford just *got it*. It’s a hard thing to get in the head of a teenager, and she nailed it.