Bryce Loski describes how he has scrambled, ever since second grade when his family moved to the neighborhood, to avoid all contact with his pesty, oddball neighbor, Julianna Baker; while Juli recalls the past six years of being smitten with and pursuing blue-eyed Bryce, hoping he would kiss her. I love everything about this insightful book, including the first sentences of each of the first two chapters. The first, narrated by Bryce: "All I've ever wanted is for Juli Baker to leave me alone. For her to back off-you know, just give me some space." And the second, setting up the pattern of chapters in the two alternating voices, by Juli: "The first day I met Bryce Loski, I flipped. Honestly, one look at him and I became a lunatic. It's his eyes."
There's Juli, sitting high up in her favorite sycamore tree, surveying the neighborhood. She raises chickens in her back yard. Weird. And there's popular, dreamy Bryce, his hair smelling of watermelon. "My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss," Juli sighs. Comparing and contrasting their wildly divergent takes on the same events is hilarious and revealing-the whole Women from Venus, Men from Mars thing. And if that's all the author did in this story, it would still be enjoyable. But, all of a sudden, wham, Bryce takes a new look at Juli, when her picture's in the paper for trying to save her tree from being cut down, and he flips for her. "I'd spent so much time avoiding Julia Baker that I'd never really looked at her, and now all of a sudden I couldn't stop." She, on the other hand, starts seeing him for what he really is-egocentric and obnoxious (a normal male teen, actually). "All I knew was that he had the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen and that his smile melted my heart like the sun melts butter. But now I know that inside he's a coward and a sneak."
A perfect cover that demands kids pick it up, some wonderful dialog, a wise grandfather (Bryce's) and father (Juli's), and two eighth graders you'll swear you know-don't forget to read this one for yourself, to remember how it felt to be 13.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: BEHAVIOR. FAMILY LIFE. INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS. LOVE.
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2001
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up