Saturday, September 25, 2021

If This Were a Story, by Beth Turley

For Hannah, sometimes it is simply easier to picture her life as a story.  If this were a story, Hannah would be a normal fifth grader who just happens to be an excellent speller.  And the hurtful messages that Hannah is receiving in school would be coming from mean girl Kimmy, who is jealous that Hannah keeps winning the spelling bee.  Hannah and her best friend Courtney would figure out a way to get the best of Kimmy, win the spelling bee, and even fix the discord between Hannah's parents along the way.

But the real world is much more complex.  No one can figure out who is bullying Hannah.  Kimmy isn't very nice, but Hannah's friend Courtney isn't very nice either.  The school counselor is trying to help Hannah get to the bottom of her issues, but there are things that Hannah can't say out loud about how she feels when her parents fight.  To articulate those feelings, Hannah  retreats into her storybook world, giving herself a voice through the characters or through inanimate objects around her.

A sweet novel, intended to be a middle reader, that is ultimately too complex for its target audience.  I loved the way that Hannah explains her feelings.  As a word whiz, she has an expansive vocabulary, but her emotional age makes it difficult for her to articulate her feelings -- that unique combination felt particularly authentic for Hannah.  But the sophistication of the book is largely wasted in a book targeted to middle readers, even if its topics of bullying, emotional abuse, and self-loathing will resonate.

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