Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Abigail Walker is trying to fit in, her best friend moved away and now Abigail hangs out with the "medium girls." They talk about medium things, weigh medium amounts, and do medium things. Abigail does not wish to talk about medium things, she is constantly reminded by her father she is not a medium size, and after discovering a fox discovers she doesn't want to do medium things. Through her budding friendship with Anders, Abigail discovers what she may make her own way through the world without doing anything a 'medium' way.

There's a confession I'd like to make, I know that Frances O'Roarke Dowell is an amazing writer but I always end up finishing her books with a bit of a miffed feeling. There seems to be always a bit too much going on, or a theme that just doesn't need to be there, or an aspect that is a little jarring.

I really thought that the whole aspect with Abigail's different issues - being bullied, weight, discovery of self - trying to resolve themselves was quite well done.  The evolution of her friendship with Anders; his father Matt, who has post-traumatic stress disorder; and Matt's mother Mrs. Benton, teaches horseback riding; is quite lovely as well. There's a little bit of mirroring going on with the whole overcoming obstacles that is just generally well written. I really enjoyed that.

But then there's this whole thing with the fox. I just don't get it. The fox talks about essentially who she jumps through different times and spaces, and how she's a friend of the crow, and what in the world is this doing in here? Turns out that the fox was with Matt when the tank exploded and there's a thing where she must resolve her feelings about what happened to him in order to move on. Weird. I would go as far as to say unnecessary. This part either needed to be fleshed out, or gotten rid of. I just kept thinking of how odd it was to have the fantasy aspect in a realistic fiction book. It slowed down the pacing and really didn't add a whole lot to the plotline.

I also didn't love how Abigail didn't seem to resolve anything with her parents. She learns to eventually stand up for herself, but you know that she is going to be pushed into horrible situations with her mother stressing about Abigail's lack of social life and her father ragging on her about her weight. Yes, it is a bit more realistic, but I needed just a touch more resolution. You know?

Considering the fact that Oct. is National Bully Awareness month, I do definitely recommend it. Overall it is a memorable and well written book. Accessible and engaging. There's just some weird parts.

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