★ “Starting seventh grade means lots of changes for Bridge and her best friends Em and Tabitha. The most obvious is Em’s sudden curves, which grab the attention of pretty much everyone. Other changes are more subtle. Like the way Bridge starts looking forward to seeing her classmate Sherman Russo. Or Tabitha’s growing interest in feminism and social justice. With diverging interests and gently simmering jealousies among the threesome, it would be easy for Stead to tell an all-too-familiar tale of a crumbling tween-girl trio. But she doesn’t: rather, she offers a refreshing story of three girls whose loving friendship survives fights, accepts odd habits, and offers ample forgiveness. Unfolding over a series of vignettes that alternate among Bridge, an unnamed high-school girl worried about the consequences of her betrayal of a friend, and letters Sherm writes to his absent grandfather, Stead’s latest gradually teases out the nuanced feelings and motivations that guide her characters’ sometimes unwise—but never disastrous—actions. Bridge and her friends are all experiencing a quietly momentous shift toward adulthood, and Stead gracefully, frankly, and humorously captures that change. Though that change is often scary, Stead shows how strongly love of all kinds can smooth the juddering path toward adulthood. Winsome, bighearted, and altogether rewarding.”
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The release of any new book by Newbery medalist Stead is a publishing event to circle in your calendar.
—Sarah Hunter, Booklist
★ “Three interwoven narrative strands explore the complicated possibilities of friendship in early adolescence. Bridge (formerly Bridget) finds increasing confidence as she navigates her seventh-grade year, while, in unsent letters to his absent grandfather, classmate Sherm expresses grief and anger over changes in his family. And an unnamed, slightly older child in a second-person narrative spends a single miserable day avoiding school for reasons that are revealed at the turning point. Stead explores communication and how messages—digital or verbal, intentional and inadvertent, delivered or kept private—suffuse the awkward, tentative world of young teens leaping (or sometimes falling) from the nest in search of their new selves. From Bridge’s cat-ears, worn daily from September through mid-February, to Sherm’s stolid refusal to respond to his grandfather’s texts, the protagonists try on their new and changing lives with a mixture of caution and recklessness. Stead adroitly conveys the way things get complicated so quickly and so completely for even fairly ordinary children at the edge of growing up with her cleareyed look at bullies and their appeal (one girl is “truly genius at being awful”), as well as her look at impulsiveness and the lure of easy sharing via text. She captures the stomach-churning moments of a misstep or an unplanned betrayal and reworks these events with grace, humor, and polish into possibilities for kindness and redemption. Superb. (Fiction. 11-14)” —Kirkus
★ “Bridget Barsamian accidentally skated into traffic at age eight, and this brush with death has made her an uncommonly introspective seventh-grader. A tight triumvirate, Bridge and her friends Tab and Em have sworn upon a Twinkie never to fight, but now Em’s curves are attracting boy interest (and a request for a risqué photo), while Tab’s attentions are turning toward feminism and social justice. Meanwhile, Bridge has a new friend, Sherm; his share of the story unspools in letters to his estranged grandfather, who left Sherm’s beloved Nonna after 50 years of marriage. Then there is an unnamed high school–age character, whose second-person chapters take place on Valentine’s Day, months in the future. Keeping readers off-balance is a Stead hallmark, but it doesn’t work quite as successfully here as it did in When You Reach Me and Liar and Spy, perhaps because the mystery narrator and the people she interacts with aren’t as fleshed out as everyone else. That said, this memorable story about female friendships, silly bets, different kinds of love, and bad decisions is authentic in detail and emotion—another Stead hallmark. Ages 10–up.” —Agent: Faye Bender, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Publishers Weekly
★ “Ah, seventh grade! A year when your friends transform inexplicably, your own body and emotions perplex you, and the world seems fraught with questions, and the most confusing ones of all concern the nature of love. Stead focuses on Bridge Barsamian, her best girlfriends, and her newest friend Sherm—a boy who is definitely not her boyfriend (probably). They’re navigating the shoals of adolescence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Emily has suddenly developed a figure that attracts a lot of attention, Tabitha is an increasingly committed human rights activist, and Bridge has taken to wearing a headband with black cat’s ears for reasons that are unclear even to her. The seventh graders aren’t the only characters working out relationships. There are married parents and divorced parents and then there’s Sherm’s grandfather who has suddenly left his wife of 50 years and moved to New Jersey. There’s also a mysterious character whose Valentine’s Day is doled out in second-person snippets interspersed within the rest of the story. Love is serious, but Stead’s writing isn’t ponderous. It’s filled with humor, delightful coincidences, and the sorts of things (salacious cell phone photos, lunchroom politics, talent show auditions) that escalate in ways that can seem life-shattering to a 13-year-old. The author keeps all her balls in the air until she catches them safely with ineffable grace. VERDICT An immensely satisfying addition for Stead’s many fans.”—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY, School Library Journal