I'm Not Convinced.
Grades 7 - 9 / Ages 12 -14.
Sharon knew this was not normal. Playing with paper dolls was certainly not something to write down on a class hobby list, but what else was she supposed to do with her time? If she watched TV, she had to sit next to Uncle Bert and watch hockey. She didn't have brothers or sisters, and she'd never been good at making friends. Other kids seemed so different. They were always dashing off toward the horizon, shouting and laughing as they moved on to whatever it was they had to do. Sharon couldn't remember a time when she had something to look forward to.
Sharon Frejer is an eighth grader who has never felt like a normal kid. She is the only child of a teenage mother who is trapped in low-paying jobs. Mother and daughter are an embarrassment to their family, and they have moved from one uncle's house to another across the country in an effort to start anew and stay solvent. All of these happenings have contributed to Sharon's low self-esteem and solitary activity. She tries to hide from the world through books and paper dolls and by draping her hair over her face and looking downward all the time.
The move to a new school proves to be a positive one, though not without its rocky moments. An eccentric classmate, Fern, befriends Sharon, and Sharon and a boy who is also an outcast become friends. Richard is an aboriginal who lives in a foster home and who is frequently in trouble at school. Fern helps Sharon develop self-confidence while Sharon helps Richard expose a teacher who expresses racist sentiments. At the same time, Sharon is dealing with a boorish uncle at home.
Sharon and Richard are stronger individuals at the end of the story as is Sharon's mother who decides to go back to school so she can get out of the cycle of poverty. Sharon's uncle learns to respect his family, and life looks brighter in the Frejer household. Beth Goobie has written a believable, smoothly paced book for young adolescents. Sharon's low self-esteem and need for friendship are problems experienced by most teens. The story's plot is not complicated but has enough subplots to mirror both the home and school life with which most teens deal. The characters are realistic, as is the dialogue. Sharon's flashbacks to her younger years and negative experiences with her other uncle are frightening and make her personality problems understandable.
Sharon's experiences demonstrate to the reader who may feel overwhelmed by personal problems that these problems can be overcome. Sharon does not do anything momentous; she just stands up for her rights and those of the people for whom she cares. She finds her inner strength, and it has a positive effect on her mother and on Richard. She no longer has to cover her face in shame and look down as she goes through life.
Beth Goobie has written a very warm and useful book for teens who need encouragement to find their inner strength and face their problems head on.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - OCTOBER 17, 1997.
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