Still a Work in Progress
Still a Work in Progress
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Annotation: Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade, where the girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him.
Catalog Number: #176280
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 311 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-536-20737-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-3891-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-536-20737-8 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-3891-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016938102
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Seventh-grader Noah's life is full of pretty ordinary things: he gossips with his friends, competes with other guys for girls, and works on his art. Then there's his bossy older sister, Emma, and "the Thing We Don't Talk About." That thing would be Emma's earlier eating disorder episode; Noah and his parents tiptoe around the subject, terrified of triggering Emma into relapse. When this happens, Emma is rushed off to long-term therapy, leaving Noah wracked with guilt. Why hadn't he and Mom and Dad seen what Emma was doing and intervened sooner? There is also anger ("She doesn't have cancer . . . She's the one making herself sick!") and a general annoyance at classmates whose concerns now seem so trivial. Knowles deftly portrays Noah's response to an intense family crisis in the midst of the usual dramas and banalities of ordinary life. While the latter can sometimes reach the point of silliness, this is a powerful portrait of an eating disorder from a younger brother's unique perspective.
Kirkus Reviews
For eighth-grader Noah, juggling school, friends, and hormones would be simple enough. Unfortunately, there is also the Thing We Don't Talk About, which looms over his family life.Setting her tale in a small New England town and telling it from Noah's point of view, Knowles presents a small school where students and teachers all know each other. Friends fight and make up, tease, argue, joke, and support each other. The big issues among students are who likes whom and what complaints to put in the Suggestion Box. Back at home, things aren't quite as simple. The white boy's older sister, Emma, has an eating disorder that reached crisis point a couple of years ago. Now, no one mentions it, though the issue is very much present in their daily lives. Family life is allowed to be ruled by Emma's eating dictates, in the hope that Emma will not have a relapse. Unfortunately, not talking about it doesn't make the problem go away. And as Emma again ends up in the hospital and then a treatment center, the family goes into a tailspin. Feelings of guilt, grief, bewilderment, and anxiety pervade Noah's present-tense account. Through his eyes, Knowles offers a touching and realistic picture of the effect on those surrounding a person with an eating disorder.A poignant window and mirror into the lives of families affected by a health disorder. (Fiction. 11-14)
Publishers Weekly
The quotidian struggles of middle school-unrequited crushes, stinky lockers, boring academics-pale in comparison to the difficulties at seventh-grader Noah Morin-s home, where his older sister, Emma, is wasting away by refusing to eat. Knowles (See You at Harry-s) sensitively explores the pain of having a sibling with an eating disorder, including the exhaustion caused by constant worry, the lack of attention for the healthy child, and the tension at every meal as the family tries to accommodate Emma-s dietary whims while closely monitoring how much she consumes. The story seesaws, sometimes uneasily, between some of the lighter situations that Noah is dealing with-crushes, a hairless therapy cat that roams the school hallways killing mice, a farting dog, etc.-and the dire one involving Emma. Even so, the relative lack of eating disorder stories told from a male point of view (especially for middle graders) makes this a welcome addition to the canon and a realistic look at how one person-s severe illness can adversely affect everyone around them. Ages 10-14. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Aug.)

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9- Noah, an average, unassuming middle schooler, is the kid his parents "don't have to worry about," as opposed to his older sister, Emma. At home, the family tiptoes around her eating disorder while going along with any and every food-related dictate Emma makes, in the hopes of avoiding a relapse. Noah navigates life with friends and classmates at his small school, but the "Thing They Don't Talk About" hangs over his head, particularly as he starts to suspect it might be happening again. When Emma does relapse, Noah attempts to go through the motions at home and at school, and he turns to his art as an emotional outlet for the pain and uncertainty in his life. Told from Noah's point of view, with fully developed main and supporting characters, the story believably and poignantly shows the effects of an eating disorder on those around the afflicted person. Noah's worry, anger, and guilt are palpable, and his desperation to understand why his sister struggles is often heartbreaking, as is his frustration with the way life goes on around him and his family. The interests of his friends and classmates begin to seem trivial, and readers will find his reactions honest and moving. VERDICT A realistic and sensitive depiction of a family in crisis and a young teen's emotional journey through it.- Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Voice of Youth Advocates
Seventh-grader Noah faces normal middle school growing pains but greater challenges at home from his sister Emma's anorexia. Noah's parents accommodate Emma's vegan wishes and create a family-controlling food tyrant. On Christmas Eve, Emma collapses. They rush her to the hospital and place her in another recovery program. Noah resents his peers and teachers carrying on their normal lives centered on friends, dating, and school. He feels ignored by his parents who seem to dismiss his art talent as they focus on Emma. In grief for his sister, he acts out and isolates himself from help. Through his art, which Emma supports, and the persistent understanding of teachers, parents, and friends, Noah realizes that each person is in a life learning process.Noah's believable friends and their conflicts will draw in seventh-grade readers, especially boys. Each is impatient with his friends' frustrations but wants understanding of his own. Their bathroom humor decreases and eventually disappears as they mature. The parents, appropriately flawed but sympathetic, cope with family relationships, finances, and loss. Tank, the social studies teacher, is the voice of wisdom. Two of the most appealing characters are the well-dressed, bald, school therapy cat who follows Noah around in his stress, and the Captain, the family dog whose digestive track rebels against the vegan diet. The novel is a great addition to a middle grade collection and will promote discussion in classes and homes.Lucy Schall.
Word Count: 56,033
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 183084 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.8 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q69233
Lexile: 660L

In a return to middle-grade fiction, master of perspectives Jo Knowles depicts a younger sibling struggling to maintain his everyday life when his older sister is in crisis.

Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade. The girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him. Not to mention that his older sister, Emma, has been acting pretty strange, even though Noah thought she’d been doing better ever since the Thing They Don’t Talk About. The only place he really feels at peace is in art class, with a block of clay in his hands. As it becomes clear through Emma’s ever-stricter food rules and regulations that she’s not really doing better at all, the normal seventh-grade year Noah was hoping for begins to seem pretty unattainable. In an affecting and realistic novel with bright spots of humor, Jo Knowles captures the complexities of navigating middle school while feeling helpless in the face of a family crisis.

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