Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book review - Still a Work in Progress

Title: Still a Work in Progress
Author: Jo Knowles
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop
                     Far From Fair by Elana K Arnold
Slow to start, but then it blew me away

Summary(provided by publisher): In a return to middle-grade fiction, master of perspectives Jo Knowles depicts a younger sibling struggling to maintain his everyday life when his older sister is in crisis.
Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade. The girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him. Not to mention that his older sister, Emma, has been acting pretty strange, even though Noah thought she’d been doing better ever since the Thing They Don’t Talk About. The only place he really feels at peace is in art class, with a block of clay in his hands. As it becomes clear through Emma’s ever-stricter food rules and regulations that she’s not really doing better at all, the normal seventh-grade year Noah was hoping for begins to seem pretty unattainable. In an affecting and realistic novel with bright spots of humor, Jo Knowles captures the complexities of navigating middle school while feeling helpless in the face of a family crisis.

My opinion: Initially I wasn't sold on this book. It was predictable, odd, and with an unconvincing narrator. It was clear where the plot was headed and was relying too heavily on gross-out humor and odd quirks to distinguish itself. And then Emma's storyline took it's inevitable turn and everything changed. After that, I was completely emotionally engaged. I felt Noah's suffering so keenly. His confusion, his anger, his despair. It's all right there on the surface for use to feel with him. Knowles doesn't try too hard to give us answers. The only goal is to get the family to a slightly healthier emotional place. 
The ideal target audience for this book is perhaps hard to decide, exactly, but it's worth looking for the right reader.
Advance reader copy provided by NetGalley.

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