Friday, August 20, 2010
Book Review: Flipped
Flipped (2001) by Wendelin Van Draanen
Bryce: My mom didn't understand why it was so awful that "that cute little girl" had held my hand. She thought I should be friends with her. "You like soccer. Why don't you go out there and kick the ball around?" Because I didn't want to be kicked around, that's why. And although I couldn't say it like that at the time, I still had enough sense at age seven and a half to know that Julianna Baker was dangerous.
Julianna: What did a kiss feel like anyway? Somehow I knew it wouldn't be like the one I got from Mom or Dad at bedtime. The same species, maybe, but a radically different beast. Like a wolf and a whippet. Only science would put them on the same tree. Looking back, I like to think it was at least partly scientific curiosity that made me chase after that kiss, but it was probably more those blue eyes.
Review: This is a fun read, but ultimately not as light-hearted as the back jacket makes it seem. Which is actually a good thing; this book has a lot of substance. Van Draanen tackles issues of family, prejudice, stereotypes and (of course) first loves. Bryce and Julianna are drastically different characters, and Van Draanen does an excellent job of giving each their own distinct voice. Each chapter alternates point of view between Bryce and Julianna, so the reader is often privy to the same event or conversation from both views. Many books alternate POV, but few re-visit the same scene, which is essential to this story's point of seeing things in different lights. Often, Bryce assumes that he knows Julianna's motivations behind an action or comment but when readers get it from Julianna's POV they discover that Bryce is wrong a lot. It reminds me of something Mark Twain said: "What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so." Because Bryce gets himself into all sorts of trouble due to what he thinks he knows.
I also really enjoyed the side characters: Bryce's sister, Julianna's brothers (who, in a happy coincidence, are oddly reminiscent of the Weasley twins...if the Weasley twins owned a boa constrictor and were making music instead of jokes), and the families of both main characters have relatively small roles but are also very important to the character arcs. Julianna has a really solid relationship with her family--her dad, especially--and over the course of the book, readers follow the change in Bryce's relationship with his own father.
Apparently, this book has been made into a movie starring two very charming young people:
While the book is seemingly set in modern times, the movie version is clearly set in the 50s. I actually really like this change, because movies set in the 50s have a certain nostalgic charm to them and also when I read the book, some parts seemed to fit better in an older time. Also, if you watched the preview, that chicken scene is hilarious in the book.
Conclusion: I give this book a 4/5. At times, the writing seemed better fitting for a Middle Grade book, and my first impression was that while I really enjoyed myself, I probably wouldn't read it again. But I realized that several days later I am still thinking about it, and what really did it was this: the beginning and the ending tied together perfectly and left an impact. Ultimately, Flipped is fast and light-hearted with a thoughtful, relevant message.
PS: If you've read the book and seen the preview, what do you think of the time change?