A rewarding middle school reader about problem solving. Willa has a wide variety of issues (including grief, family conflict, rebuilding friendships, jealousy, and accepting failure) but addresses each of them in a positive way. Her strength, which comes through again and again, is that she thinks through her problems and does her best. She does not always succeed, but gains strength even from her failures. The wide diversity of issues threatens to make the novel seem unfocused, but the unifying theme is the power of communication, seeking help from others, and creative problem solving. The result is a warm book with a positive message that even the most terrible issues can be solved and that what initially seems like failure is simply the first step towards eventual success.
As an added bonus, frequent fun facts about whales which are sprinkled throughout the book make for entertaining Google searches for inquiring minds!