Thursday, 17 June 2010

Inside Out Girl

Author: Tish Cohen
Genre: Modern Fiction
Pages: 317
Published: 2008
First Line: "The stench of his daughter's darkened room nearly brought Len to his knees."

Olivia Bean is a 10 year old girl living with her widowed father, Len. Due to her behaviours, Olivia is quickly seen as an odd child to those around her. Although she is quite smart she wears her clothes inside out on a regular basis, doesn't brush her hair and can quote random facts about rats. These characteristics of Olivia don't help her fit in to her private school where she is bullied and made fun of on a regular basis. What her peers don't realize is that Olivia has Nonverbal Learning Disorder which means that she cannot process facial and voice cues which results in some of her inappropriate behaviours.

Rachel is a single mother who runs "Perfect Parent" magazine and sees each issue with her 12 and 14 year old children, Dustin and Janie, as a new source for her articles on parenting. Janie and Dustin go to the same private school as Olivia and are horrified when Rachel starts dating Len. They think it's the end of their social lives now that they'll have to acknowledge 'Inside Out Girl' at school.

Throughout the book the reader gets a glimpse into the feelings and thoughts of Len, Rachel and Janie as they struggle with their own lives and living with Olivia. In the end, this book is a heart-felt read that makes you cheer for the underdog.

My Thoughts:
This book was brought to my attention by Jen S and I'm glad I read it. It's a quick read with a lot of heart. Not the kind of 'heart' that makes you all mushy and pull out the Kleenex but it did evoke a tenderness in me -- in the 'awww' kind of way.

This is a little book that is packed full of issues that happen in modern society. From divorce, to learning disorders to bullying to teen sexual exploration to adoption. You'd think that that would be too many issues for such a small book but Cohen handles it well. The storylines seem to mesh well together and I liked being able to get a glimpse into how some of the characters were feeling . The author showed the inner dialogue that Len, Janie and Rachel had with themselves -- but I wasn't sure why Dustin or the grandmother were left out. It would have been interesting to get their take too.

I did appreciate getting a look into what it would be like to be the parent of a child with NLD and the fear these parents have for their children's futures. I felt Len's character was realistically portrayed and I felt like rallying around him to help him figure out how to plan for his daughter's uncertain future.

This would be a great book for young adults/teens to learn to empathize what it feels like for others to be labelled 'weird' by their peers and the damage and hurt that bullying can do. Before this book I had never heard of NLD before but it opened my eyes to this kind of learning disorder and Cohen introduces this disorder in a very compassionate way.

This book is about learning about ourselves and finding strength in family (blood family as well as the families we choose for ourselves). Many of the characters go through personal maturing. From Janie who learns to accept and love Olivia and her quirks to Rachel who learns that there is no such thing as the 'perfect parent'. A good read.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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