What makes this novel so much fun and adds a large dose of humor is that Bryce and Juli see everything completely differently, even when they are each recounting the exact same events. For instance, here are two excerpts about the day they first met, when a mud-splattered Juli came over to the moving truck, excited to have someone her own age in the neighborhood, and introduced herself. Bryce was a bit overwhelmed by Juli and tried to escape into the house. First, Bryce’s perspective:
I heard her coming after me but I couldn’t believe it. Maybe it just sounded like she was chasing me; maybe she was really going the other way. But before I got up the nerve to look, she blasted right past me, grabbing my arm and yanking me along.
This was too much. I planted myself and was about to tell her to get lost when the weirdest thing happened. I was making this big windmill motion to break away from her, but somehow on the downswing my hand wound up tangling into hers. I couldn’t believe it. There I was, holding the mud monkey’s hand!
I tried to shake her off, but she just clamped on tight and yanked me along, saying, “C’mon!”
And here is how Juli remembers the exact same incident, where she thought Bryce had to go in house the to help but would much rather stay out and play:
I chased Bryce up the walkway, and that’s when everything changed. You see, I caught up to him and grabbed his arm, trying to stop him so maybe we could play a little before he got trapped inside, and the next thing I know he’s holding my hand, looking right into my eyes.
My heart stopped. It just stopped beating. And for the first time in my life, I had that feeling. You know, like the world is moving all around you, all beneath you, all inside you, and you’re floating. Floating in midair. And the only thing keeping you from drifting away is the other person’s eyes. They’re connected to yours by some invisible physical force, and they hold you fast while the rest of the world swirls and twirls and falls completely away.
I almost got my first kiss that day. I’m sure of it.
As you can see, Bryce and Juli see things very differently, and this continues through the five years that they know each other, with each of them assuming things about the other one. In eighth grade, a lot of things happen – involving chickens, a sycamore tree, and several family secrets – that change both their views, and things get flipped once again.
The audio version of this book was a lot of fun to listen to, with excellent reading by both of the young actors voicing the parts of Bryce and Juli. There are plenty of twists in the plot to keep you guessing and laughing.
Alfred A. Knopf, 212 pages
Accelerated Reader (AR) Level 4.8; 8 points