Five second summary: Boy meets girl.
Girl terrifies said boy.
Boy spends his life from second to seventh grade hiding/trying to discourage said girl, etc.
And then in eighth grade, things flip.
Seven-year old Bryce Loski moves into a new neighborhood, and his neighbor Juli Baker instantly falls for him. She swears he’s holding on to her first kiss.
Bryce’s surly widowed grandfather Chet moves in with his family the summer before eighth grade, and life begins to change.
Juli loves a 100-year old sycamore tree in the neighborhood. She’s on top of the world when she climbs the tree, and she feels alive. She finally understands her dad’s saying that sometimes “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” where little bits of things come together and make magic. When the owner decides to cut down the tree, she refuses to get down from the tree. She begs others to take a stand with her, but they don’t. It’s an all-morning event until her dad shows up to get her down. Reporters interview her for the paper and get pictures. Chet tells Bryce to read the article, saying that Juli is someone he’d like to know. Bryce ignores Chet, as Juli is certified crazy in his book.
Meanwhile, Juli raised chickens for a science fair, and she began to give eggs away when the egg situation at their house was getting out of control. She got paid by some of the neighbors, but gave some to Bryce’s family just because. Well, Bryce was (pardon the pun) too chicken to tell her to stop when the family raised fears about salmonella, so he tossed her eggs. When she asks why, he gives a list of excuses: their yard was unkempt and trashy so how did they know the eggs weren’t the same?
This exchange upsets Juli. Her family can’t afford to fix the yard due to her uncle being in an assisted living facility, and she begins to fix the yard with her egg money. Chet comes over and befriends her. He tells Juli that she reminds him of his wife in her spirit, claiming that “Renee would have stayed in that tree with you. She would have stayed there all night.” She tells Chet about her mentally challenged uncle. Chet asks Juli to look beneath the surface of Bryce’s “dazzling eyes” and see what’s inside.
Bryce’s dad (who is a total jerk) asks Chet why he’s spending so much time helping white trash, and Chet gives him the short version of having a handicapped brother. When Mr. Loski continues to make jokes at their expense, it causes Mrs. Loski to burst into tears. Turns out, Bryce had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck when he was born and could have easily been the one Dad was making fun of. Mrs. Loski invites the Bakers for dinner, in an act of repentance for her husband being an ass and feeling horrible over everything from eggs to the uncle.
Bryce begins to take a second look at Juli, and he finally recognizes that she’s got something special about her. Juli’s starting questioning what makes her like him. When she overhears his friend making fun of her uncle and him not doing anything about it, the illusion is over for her. She confronts him about it, and they barely make it through the family dinner. By the end, she semi-forgives him, but mostly because she sees that Mr. Loski “was clean and smooth on the outside, but there was a distinct whiff of something rotten buried just beneath the surface.”
Bryce becomes a basket boy, where the girls bid on baskets with delicious lunches in them (and have to eat lunch with the boy who brought it). Juli refuses to bid on Bryce, but bids on the boy before Bryce that no one was bidding on and she thought was a nice kid. Bryce actually goes for over $100 with two popular girls going in the bid together. Bryce gets disgusted with the popular girls during lunch and attempts to kiss Juli. Juli runs and avoids Bryce for a day or two, while he essentially tries to stalk her.
When he comes over to plant a sycamore tree, she doesn’t exactly flip… but she’s open to give him a chance.
Cute, cute book. It flips from points of view, so, my apologies if there’s any confusion in my summary. It feels long to me, and I really struggled getting this review out. But since I took the cynical view of Valentine’s Day last year, I thought I’d go for a first love story this year.
- There are many lines that are essential to this book, but I couldn’t fit them in and sound coherent.
- Chet of Juli: “Some of us are dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss… But every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”
- The theme of whole being greater than the sum of its parts comes up several times. The opposite, the whole being less than the sum of its parts, is more terrifying. When she looks at her classmates, the majority are less than the sum… but she can’t decide about Bryce.
- “One’s character is set at an early age, son. The choices you make now will effect you for the rest of your life. I’d hate to see you swim out so far, you can’t swim back.” Chet to Bryce, because really, Bryce has a high chance of becoming his father and that would be awful.
- Rob Reiner directed a film adaptation which is awesome. He set his movie in the 60’s, but the book takes place from ’94-2000. Flipped fits really well with the ’60’s but the story is timeless. (Rob Reiner also did the film adaptation for The Princess Bride– therefore, I trust him to make fabulous movies based on books. ) I really liked it. Chet is played by John Mahoney of Fraiser fame, and the kids are great in their roles.
Grades: 5-7,8 May be a little young for eighth grade, but I first saw it when three sixth grade girls returned it at the end of the year. Yeah. I hadn’t seen the book because it was out so often.
Grade: A It’s timeless, innocent, and sweet. It effectively does the he says/she says storyline. And we need more iridescence in the world.
Be iridescent. Happy Valentine’s.