- How We Roll by Natasha Friend
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30566-6 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30567-3 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4–7
Freshman Quinn is pleased to have a new start when her family moves across the country for her autistic younger brother’s school. In Colorado, everybody knew about the alopecia that left her bald and the harassment became savage, but now in Massachusetts, she’ll sail through with a wig (known fondly by its model name, Guinevere) and nobody will be the wiser. She’s drawn to her classmate Nick, who’s newly in a wheelchair following a snowmobile accident that led to a double amputation, and the two gradually form a friendship. As she and Nick get closer, though, she worries about the unfairness of her keeping the secret about her alopecia from him while his vulnerabilities are visible to her. Friend makes her two protagonists likable kids, and Quinn’s concerns about her condition are believably overlaid on a capable athletic girl who’s no shrinking violet; the family situation, where everything centers on little brother Julius and Quinn gets more appreciation the less she needs her parents, rings true. The book overloads the conflicts, however, between Nick’s, Quinn’s, and Julius’ problems, and there’s contrivance in the plotting and in the character dynamics. The unleavened meanness of Quinn’s old acquaintances contrasts exaggeratedly with the unfailing kindness of her new ones, and Quinn’s parents’ assurance that despite Julius’ troubles they can respond to her as well is palpably untrue in practice. Nonetheless, this is a compassionate tale of two kids facing big if very different challenges and finding their way through.