There are a lot of things Louise should have. She’s in 7th grade, and she should have a lot of friends, but she doesn’t. She should be the captain of her school’s gymnastics team, but she isn’t. She should have two loving parents–but she doesn’t. Instead, Louise lives with her quirky grandparents and hangs out with her two best friends. When she starts getting notes from a secret admirer, she tries to figure out what’s happening, but she can’t ever seem to connect with the object of her affection. She should have a totally charmed life–but she doesn’t. What’s the secret that’s keeping Louise from fully realizing her potential?
Phoebe Stone’s moving, authentic novel will appeal to tween and teen readers alike. Despite the fact that the novel features a 7th garder, Stone’s writing is so good and so compelling that it transcends age barriers. Believable, quirky characters, authentic narration, and an emotionally resonant plot make this book a standout read this year.
Stone could go the obvious route and make Louise’s pain over the top, but she’s in complete control of her prose (which is really quite lovely) and slowly unravels the layers of Louise’s pain. Louise’s voice is strong and compelling, and her pain is unbelievably raw. It would be easy to manipulate the readers, but Stone doesn’t go for the easy way out with this one, and the result is gripping and never overly sentimental.
Strong secondary characters round out this sad and appealing story. Despite its heavy issues, Stone adds enough humor through the use of Louise’s quirky grandparents and Louise’s two best friends. There’s a lot to love here, and this reader was completely taken aback by how enjoyable and emotionally cathartic the story was.
Highly, highly recommended to fans of contemporary middle grade and YA. This is one that transcends its age group.
The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone. Arthur A. Levine Books: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.