by Wendelin Van Draanen
Unconditional Recommendation: A humorous, honest story of first love, growing up, and changing perspectives told from alternating point of views.
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Comedy
I read this book in fifth or sixth grade and was amazed. I never knew a story could be told in a back-and-forth manner between characters or that a coming-of-age story intertwined with a romantic theme could be told so well. I loved that it captured all the emotions of growing up and ever since I’ve kept an eye out for books by Wendelin Van Draanen. In addition to this book, I also highly recommend another of her stand-alone’s, The Running Dream.
I think Booklist said it best, “This is a wry character study, a romance with substance and subtlety.” It’s a book of substance—exactly!
The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. Juli says: “My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss.” He says: “It’s been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.” But in the eighth grade everything gets turned upside down: just as Bryce is thinking that there’s maybe more to Juli than meets the eye, she’s thinking that he’s not quite all he seemed. This is a classic romantic comedy of errors told in alternating chapters by two fresh, funny voices.
Bryce Loski is from a well-to-do, good-looking family consisting of his dad and mom, his older sister Lynetta, and his recently widowed granddad. He’s a good kid but until he gets to know his grandfather better, he unfortunately mimics the viewpoints of his father and his best friend Garrett. For example, his father’s view on the Baker family is they should be avoided and looked down on because their house, their yard, and their things are so crummy. If their possessions are going down the drain then the family must be too. He often goes to Garrett for advice and to be distracted from his thoughts, his troubles with Juli, and his growing suspicion that his family is not as perfect as it looks on the outside.
Julianna Baker is curious, spunky, and introspective. She has a close-knit, hardworking family and though they don’t have much money her dad, mom, and two brothers make the most of it. Everyone was happy for her when they heard a family with a boy her age was moving into the neighborhood—finally she would have her very own best friend. But things never go as planned and Juli’s untamed infatuation drives Bryce away. She doesn’t know why she likes him so much, but after she loses her precious sycamore tree, meets her Uncle David, and befriends Bryce’s grandfather she begins to wonder if Bryce isn’t who she made him out to be.
Bryce’s grandfather, Juli’s dad, and Juli’s uncle are all noteworthy and influential characters throughout the story. I really enjoy reading about the interconnections between family members and how it impacts Bryce and Juli’s maturation.
Growing Up – Both Bryce and Juli must learn to see things for how they really are, not how they seem from the outside or first impression. The story gently explores the growing pains and joys that come with leaving the innocence of childhood. The reader gets to see it through alternating viewpoints of Bryce and Juli—each equally lighthearted and increasingly thoughtful as the book progresses. I love watching characters grow and Van Draanen does it with care, humor, and heart.
Acquiring New Perspectives – The title “Flipped” is right on the money. Upon first sight, Juli became infatuated for her new neighbor, Bryce Loski and his bright blue eyes. But Bryce, even at seven years old, wants nothing to do with this muddy, pushy girl from across the street. Not much changes—Juli tries to get as close as she can to Bryce, and he tries to get as far away from her as he can—until eighth grade when they both begin to grow up and their perspectives flip. The haze of first impressions and perceptions are swept aside as the adults in their lives lovingly invest in them.
Family – A major theme of the book, it’s so refreshing to read about kids operating within their families. And in this case, we read about two different kinds of family culture. Juli has a great love for her family, and her respect for her parents, especially her father, only grows as she learns more about his life and why they’re so poor. Bryce has fairly average relationships with his family members. As he matures, he becomes disillusioned with his father and develops a closer relationship with his grandfather.
This romance starts with a crush in childhood and changes as they become teens. As a kid, Juli repeatedly talks about wanting to kiss Bryce and how handsome he is. There’s also “dating” and having boyfriends and girlfriends in elementary school which, from my experience, is very realistic in a public school setting even if it is ridiculous. That aside, it’s all quite innocent and a heartwarming story that’s more about understanding and appreciating who a person really is—contesting your perceptions—than it is about a boy-girl romantic relationship. It’s a book about growing up.
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