Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Observe No Name Calling Week with Addie on the Inside

12-year-old Addie Carle is the only girl in her group of friends. She is smart, outspoken and opinionated, and maybe just a tad obnoxious. As seventh grade progresses, Addie's tough exterior becomes just a little difficult to maintain, and she starts questioning everything about herself.  Told in accessible verse, James Howe perfectly captures the inner turmoil of a girl who just doesn't quite fit in, and how she faces the pain of growing up.

Ten years ago, James Howe published a groundbreaking book called The Misfits. Set in a town called Shaker Falls, the book focuses on a group of four friends- Addie, Bobby, Skeezie and Joe, who for various reasons are slightly on the outside. Tired of the bullying and the name calling in school, the gang decides to challenge the popular kids for a seat on Student Council running on the platform of "No Name Calling", hoping to wipe out name calling and taunting in their school. The book was the inspiration for No Name Calling Week, which is observed across the U.S. and Canada. A few years later, he returned with Totally Joe, told from Joe's point of view, and this past fall, followed up with Addie on the Inside, told from Addie's point of view.

Addie is not like the other girls. She's smart and speaks her mind. She's tall, flat-chested and hangs out mostly with guys, which results in frequent teasing from her classmates. Her boyfriend DuShawn is black, which makes the black girls hate her, and he's popular, which leads to whispers about what he could possibly see in her. DuShawn also doesn't help matters when he seems to always be telling her that she's too...a lot of things. Added to the mix is Becca, who was Addie's friend when they were little and before she moved away, but has since returned and become a queen bee, who does that thing that girls that age do by offering Addie "helpful" advice on her appearance, clothes, etc... and spreads rumours behind her back.

In some ways, Addie is lucky. She has supportive parents who love her, and an extremely close relationship with her grandmother, who encourages her to be herself and be comfortable in her own skin. So many kids don't have that kind of support, and even if they do, it's not enough. Too many kids like Addie end up committing suicide, one of whom- Phoebe Prince, is mentioned in one of the poems. Addie is stronger than that, but she's still extremely vulnerable and confused. On the one hand, she longs to fit in, and on the other, she wants nothing to do with these silly girls who seem to start every sentence with "Like, Omigod". I particularly loved the poem "The Omigod Chorus" which exemplifies just how silly they sound.

Addie however refuses to be a victim. Never shy about standing up for what she believes in (she founded the Gay/Lesbian/Straight Alliance in her school in support of her gay best friend Joe) she arrives at school one day with duct tape over her mouth, and a card explaining that she will not speak for an entire day in protest of all of the name calling that occurs in her school. This action is met with mixed reactions from the teachers and students, but Addie is steadfast and doesn't give in easily. Addie is every girl. She's a mix of anguish,courage, vulnerability,  toughness, and confusion, and all she really wants is to be allowed to be who she is.The messages in this book are universal, and if they make a difference to even one kid whose been bullied or bullies, then I'd call that a good start.