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First-time novelist Pixley crafts a disturbing tale that taps into the harsh reality of what it means to be a middle-school outcast. Twelve-year-old Miriam Fisher, who enjoys reading the dictionary in her spare time, has always been labeled an "alien" at school and tormented by the popular girls. Her older sister, Deborah, has been her one true friend-but now Deborah has transformed from an uncool ugly duckling into a popular swan and no longer has time for her kid sister. Things fall apart when her sister begins dating the guy she has an enormous crush on. In the most powerful scene, Miriam lashes out in a stunning act of self-destruction. Readers will feel her horror at what she's done to herself: "I looked more like a reptile than a human. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and watched the naked eyes grow wide and terrified." Only when she hits bottom does Miriam finally discover her inner strength and stand up boldly for herself and ultimately for one of her tormentors in desperate need of help. Pixley doesn't cut corners: Miriam is not all that sympathetic. She's quirky, monopolizes conversations and includes herself in others' plans. But the accomplished writing moves readers well beyond easy likability. Observant and tough, Miriam's voice has a knife edge that tears past the surface. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal
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Gr 7-10-Pixley hits the nail on the head when it comes to middle-school misery. Miriam Fisher is a heroine in a misfit's body, with a popular older sister and artsy, intellectual parents who encourage her nonconformist lifestyle and choose to believe that her life is hunky-dory. When high school senior and handsome thespian Artie Rosenberg comes to live with them while his parents are on sabbatical in India, Miriam's life spirals out of control. The "watermelon girls" at school (so named for the flavor of their lip gloss) taunt her about her looks, her awkward manner, and her crush on Artie, which, it turns out, is not so secret, thanks to her sister. Jenny Clarke, their leader, is cruel to Miriam on a daily basis, humiliating her in the cafeteria, on the bus, and during class. The protagonist records her joys and sorrows in her journal, which she carries with her constantly, adding poetry and soulful entries as they occur. Through unexpected circumstances, Miriam ends up shaving her head and saving her nemesis from a terrible fate, therefore empowering herself and redefining her identity. Like Virginia in Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (Candlewick, 2003), Miriam changes her mind about what makes someone beautiful, popular, or confident. This is a powerful look at middle school angst and transformation from a new YA author to watch.-Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Poet Pixley's gripping story of middle-school bullying may call to mind Spinelli's Stargirl (2000) and Anderson's Speak (1999), but there is nothing derivative in this debut novel. Seventh-grader Miriam Fisher is decidedly different from her schoolmates, and perfectly comfortable with that; she reads the OED for fun and is already an accomplished poet. Her best buddy and companion in awkwardness has always been her older sister, Deborah, but Deborah has recently morphed into a stunning beauty and is now part of the high-school in-crowd, though she's only a freshman. To further stress the sisters' relationship, Artie Rosenberg, a longtime family friend, high-school senior, and drama department star, moves in with the girls' family while his parents are on sabbatical in India, and Deborah and Miriam bitterly vie for his attention and affection. When Miriam is viciously persecuted by a classmate, she explodes. The adult characters are not as fully developed as the multidimensional teens, but the story's conflicts are exceptionally riveting and believable. Miriam's poems appear throughout the book and, like Miriam's first-person narrative, are startlingly accomplished. Thorny, determined, brilliant, mature yet surprisingly naive, Miriam is unforgettable.--Carton, Debbie Copyright 2007 Booklist