Falling Over Sideways

fallingoversidewaysby Jordan Sonnenblick
First sentence: “I’m waiting in the wings, watching all the fathers dancing onstage.”
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Content: There’s no swearing, drinking, or drugs. There is some talk of crushes. It’s a pretty skinny book, too. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, but I’d give it to a 5th grader who was interested.

Claire is managing 8th grade okay so far. Sure, she’s no longer in the same dance class as her best friends. Sure, the boy at school who’s been mean to her for two years is still there. Sure, she’s still being compared to (and found failing) her Perfect Older Brother. And, sure her science teacher is kind of crazy. But it’s all manageable.

That is, until her father has a serious stroke. And she’s the only one home. She does what she’s supposed to do: calls her mom, calls 911. But it’s left her shaken. And it’s left her dad as a shell of himself. And that means her life has changed, whether she wants it to or not.

And while it’s a tough year for Claire, there are some bright spots. Sonnenblick captures the ordinary incredibly well, finding the joy and heartbreak in the little moments. Claire has a really heartwarming growth arc, as she goes from being afraid of her father in his new condition to being his biggest champion. And she grows with her friendships as well, discovering friends where she didn’t think there were. It’s a heartwarming tale overall (even if the mom starts out as annoyingly perfect and positive), one that will not only resonate with kids whose parents have been ill, but pretty much everyone who’s struggled a bit in their life.

A very, very good read.