The Second Life of Abigail Walker

by Frances O’Roark Dowell
ages: 9+
First sentence: “The fox had been stepping into stories since the beginning of time.”
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Sixth grade has not been the best for Abigail Walker. Her best friend recently moved away, and she’s been caught up in a group of mean-ish girls because her mother wants Abby to be friends with them. In addition, her parents (especially her dad) are always on her case about eating, since she’s a bit more overweight than they’d like her to be. Between these two things, all Abby wants to do is hide in her closet and eat candy bars.

I’m going to interject here:  I want to give this one to parents. Just so they can see the effect their comments have on their children. The parents in this one earn a great big huge OY, PEOPLE. I want to smack them.

Anyway. Abby starts frequenting the field across the street from her house, and discovers a fox, which bites her (not hard). She also meets a boy, Anders, and his father who is recovering from PTSD from his tour in Iraq. Between Helping Anders with his dad and the fox, Abby begins branching out, discovering a strength in her to make new friends and to begin to stand up to her parents.

Aside from the whole parent-issue thingy, this was just an okay book. Abby is dealing with lots of issues, and I was glad to see her being to make things right. For a while, I was thinking O’Roark Dowell would wrap everything up in a nice bow, and I was quite glad she didn’t. (I should trust her more; she rarely steers me wrong.) The only real misstep in this one was the fox; I was never quite sure why the fox really needed to be there. It seemed like it belonged in a different book, one that was wholly an animal fantasy, rather than a middle grade issue-oriented book.

But aside from the fox, it was a sweet story about a girl who’s trying to figure out who she really is in the face of everyone’s expectations.

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