Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick (2016)

fallingJordan Sonnenblick is a staple in realistic fiction aimed at middle school readers.  His newest offering does not disappoint.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9780545863247)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, humor

Tone/Style: thoughtful, self-pitying

Pace: moderate

Topics: parental illness, strokes, recovery, dance, saxophone

Themes: family, parent-child relationships, selfishness, sacrifice

Summary: It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke . . . but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her — if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.

Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic — while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious — and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This bittersweet but ultimately hopeful tale should appeal to most fans of realistic fiction. Well-timed humor keeps it from getting bogged down with tragedy.

Who won’t like this book?: Readers who want tragedy and high drama may be disappointed.  Claire could be considered whiny (although I tend to think if you complain about teenagers being too whiny in YA, you maybe should stop reading books about teenagers).

Other comments: This is Sonnenblick’s first book from a female point of view, and he makes the transition smoothly. I got a signed copy from him at the Book Blitz at YALSA Symposium!


Readalikes: Any of Sonnenblick’s other YA books would be a good choice, but especially Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, which is about a boy whose little brother has leukemia. Nest by Esther Ehrlich and Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington feature girls with ill parents, though they both skew younger than Falling Over Sideways. The tone of this book reminded me of Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend, though the subject matter is a bit different.

-Kylie Peters

Image: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28675749-falling-over-sideways

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