Just a note before we hop in, I’m not like back back from hiatus or anything, I just want to post reviews for books as I read them that way I don’t have to weirdly try and catch up on posting/writing them when I come back because that sounds stressful to me. Anyways, allow me to now talk about the middle grade novel that now owns my whole heart.
Summary from Goodreads:
In the wake of a destructive tornado, one girl develops feelings for another in this stunning, tender novel about emerging identity, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls–and children’s literature at large.
This review is spoiler free.
“How was Ivy supposed to handle all of these feelings for June, all these feelings at all, if everything she saw and read about and heard about was all boy-girl, girl-boy?”
Hello and welcome to Ashley Herring Blake rips Arin’s heart out, again, but this time through a middle grade. I am writing this review right after I finished the book and I am honestly feeling so many things and have so many things to say, I haven’t felt this way about a book in a long time and I am not sure how I want to express that. However, I will try because I kind of want to scream from the rooftops about this book.
Ivy Aberdeen is already feeling isolated and alone when her home is destroyed by a tornado and she finds herself feeling like the odd one out everywhere – including with her best friend and her family. Ivy has to navigate her complex feelings about her family life, about the feelings she is feeling for a girl named June she had suddenly grown close to, and about the fact that someone has taken her notebook full of drawings that reveal how she likes girls the way she is supposed to like boys.
I cannot imagine starting this review by talking about anything other than Ivy herself. She is one of my most complex and realistic characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about, especially in a middle grade. I often, sadly, find that in middle grade the characters either act far too young or far too old for their actual age range, but Ivy acted like a realistic twelve year old would. I can’t stress how much reading this book felt like a preteen was pouring out their story for me, I felt for Ivy, I wanted to be able to comfort her and tell her everything would be okay. Basically, I just loved and felt for Ivy a lot, she was oddly relatable given our age difference.
“Liking girls was part of that, but it wasn’t everything. It was one piece in a bigger puzzle, and when you put all the pieces together, there was Ivy.”
Family and friendship were both very important topics in this book and I loved how they were handled. Ivy felt so isolated from her best friend and her family in general, especially her older sister and her mother, both of whom she was very close to before. It was honestly hard to read about how lonely she was, I just wanted to somehow talk to her and tell her she wasn’t alone. However, regardless of how hard it was to read, I think this topic was handled and resolved very well. The family dynamics in this book were so so good, I can’t do them justice, especially in a rambly review. Basically, you’ll just have to read it for yourself *wink wink, nudge nudge*.
“Maybe perfect was just another word for belonging. For feeling like yourself. It didn’t mean things weren’t hard. It just meant they were right. It just meant that eventually things would get better, and make more sense, that your heart wouldn’t always feel so lonely. It meant safe. It meant okay.”
There were so many good conversations about coming out in this book and I loved them all. A good bit came from Robin, the owner of the inn Ivy’s family stayed in after the tornado. Robin has a girlfriend and once Ivy found that out, she thought a lot about it and eventually asked Robin about it which sparked one of my favorite conversations in the book. It wasn’t just Robin, however, Ivy and her friends and her sister also had very great discussions about coming out and how hard it is and how much trust you have to put into the person you’re telling.
“Coming out, the grand revealing where you told your friends and family that you liked girls. Or boys. Or whoever. Where you told them you were different.”
There are so many great things about this novel and I loved it with my whole heart. The only slightly negative thing I have to say (which isn’t even that negative) is just to warn that it takes a little bit to get into the plot that is actually discussed in the summary. I personally didn’t mind because I was captivated from the first page, but I thought I should mention that just in case that is something that bothers others.
I feel like I haven’t done a good job of explaining any of my feelings about this book, but I honestly never do. I also feel like I haven’t talked about half of the things I want to, but I want to keep this review spoiler free so I will just leave this as it is. I highly recommend this book. I know it is middle grade and that some aren’t big fans of that genre, but this book was so so good and I loved it. I will likely never stop talking about it, if that will help convince you at all.
“Resilient means the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties. It doesn’t mean things aren’t hard. It doesn’t mean we aren’t hurt. It just means we keep going. We keep living. We keep trying.”