Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)

My mom didn’t understand why it was so awful that “that cute little girl” had held my hand. She thought I should be friends with her. “You like soccer. Why don’t you go out there and kick the ball around?” Because I didn’t want to be kicked around, that’s why. And although I couldn’t say it like that, I still had enough sense at age seven and a half to know that Julianna Baker was dangerous.

What did a kiss feel like anyway? Somehow I knew it wouldn’t be like the one I got from Mom or Dad at bedtime. The same species, maybe, but radically different beast. Like a wolf and a whippet. Only science would put them in the same tree. Looking back, I think it was at least partly scientific curiosity that made me chase after that kiss, but it was probably more of those blue eyes.

FlippedIt has been a few years since I’ve read Flipped but Bryce Loski and Juli Baker are still alive and well in my mind. This was one of the first books I booktalked to middle school students when I became a YA Librarian in 2006. Mention of it today brings fond memories to mind: Juli’s determination to save her tree, Bryce’s inability to speak to this luminescent girl and his awakening, hens versus roosters, the humiliation of being a basket boy, and the conflict every girl feels when her crush turns out to be less of a whole than the sum of him parts.

I am delighted to report Rob Reiner’s adaptation captures the spirit of the book, remains true to the plot and even added a layer to my understanding of it. Specifically, I thought the family scenes were spectacular, not in a fireworks and special effects way. It wasn’t that type of movie.

With veracity, Reiner shows the financial stress the Baker’s are under because of David, Julianna’s mental retarded brother. Then he captures perfectly the difference between the Baker family and the Loski family. After their row, Mr. and Mrs. Baker talk to Juli, explaining their argument and apologizing. As a result, Juli tackles things head-on. When she believes she acted too quickly, she apologizes and explains.

It is clear the Loski family does not deal with their disagreements. There is no apology after Mr. Loski slaps his daughter. As a result, Bryce is often left confused and clueless as to how to resolve his own problems.

This is a fantastic, gentle book for children who are nearing or just entering their teenage years. I highly recommend it and its movie adaptation. Both have a “he said, she said” perspective that makes it a great choice for boys and girls.


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