Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers (ARC)

The Encyclopedia of Me. by Karen Rivers. September 1, 2012. Scholastic. 256 pages. ISBN:  9780545310284 

The encyclopedia of Isadora “Tink” Aaron-Martin’s life is an alphabetical listing of all the things that matter to her, both good and bad. Included in this tome are things like her brother Seb’s autism, her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson, skateboarding, Everybody magazine, her afro, her crush list (which may or may not include Kai, the new blue-haired boy next door), and lots of footnotes explaining Tink’s personality, family, friendships, and emotions. Much like a diary, this encyclopedia reveals Tink’s innermost secrets, creating a rich, realistic portrait of a twenty-first century middle schooler.

I had no idea when I started this book how much I would grow to love it. It starts out so randomly, with an entry for “Aa, “which Tink defines as “Some kind of lava.” For the first few entries of the encyclopedia, I thought the concept was more of a gimmick than an effective story telling technique. Soon, though, I realized that this story has an actual arc, and that Tink’s encyclopedia serves as a place for her to share what she might never say out loud to anyone else. As the entries unfold, the reader is allowed to experience many defining moments in Tink’s life. We see her first real kiss, her major falling out with Freddie Blue, a rebellious overnight in a department store, her first experiences as a skateboarder, and, at the height of the story, a meltdown from Seb, a near-tragic injury for her other brother, Lex, and her own decision to stop using her nickname and go by the name Isadora instead. Every one of these moments feels true, and readers can really relate to the various crises Tink faces.

I think the true strength of this book is the description. I love the way Tink characterizes Freddie Blue, for example. At one point, she complains that Freddie Blue talks to her “as though she is my elderly maiden aunt from Ohio.” Later on, she writes that “FB’s scorn is so sharp, it’s like a glittery paring knife peeling the skin off an apple in one smooth, long curl. You do not want to be the apple.” Freddie Blue is one of the most interesting characters in the story, and these moments of description really helped me form an image of her in my mind.

Lots of other little moments caught my attention and made me smile with enjoyment or recognition. I could relate to Tink’s statement that “Sometimes I write things that are so embarrassing that even my fingers blush and wish they could run away to a forest to hide without the rest of my embarrassing self.” I also loved her observation that “Coffee-flavored ice cream, which tastes like coffee smells, is delicious. Actual coffee, which smells like coffee-flavored ice cream tastes, is not.” There are many other lines like these that demonstrate Tink’s sense of humor, as well as her unique outlook on life.

This book is perfect for middle school girls. It’s entertaining, smart, and well-written, with the perfect mix of humor, drama, and romance. It compares well with other books about complicated friendships, such as Mission Unpopular and The Darlings Are Forever, and will also draw in readers who like books written in a diary format. The Encyclopedia of Me is one of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2012, and I can’t wait for it to come out in stores this September 1st.

I received a digital ARC of The Encyclopedia of Me from Scholastic via NetGalley. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat

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