Absolutely Almost

Finished Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

A perfect companion to Lisa Graff’s National Book Award-nominated A Tangle of Knots, this novel explores a similar theme in a realistic contemporary world where kids will easily be able to relate their own struggles to Albie’s. Great for fans of Rebecca Stead’s Liar and Spy, RJ Palacio’s Wonder and Cynthia Lord’s Rules.”

I bought this book a while ago, but I can’t remember why.  Probably one of my blogger friends was raving about it, and (as always seems to happen) I cared enough to buy it immediately but wasn’t able to read it right away.  And then my author and friend Liza Wiemer raved about it (read her review here) and then I knew I had to read it immediately.

And oh you guys, this book.  This. Book.

I feel like a lot of times we all have this great amount of pressure to be the best at something…and I feel like it’s even worse when you’re little.  Parents want their kids to excel.  And of course they do! You need to do well in elementary school so that you can do well in middle school, because otherwise, how well could you possibly do in high school? And then what happens to college? You’ll be working a nametag job.  But the problem is that everyone considers success the exact same way: getting straight A’s in school.

And Albie, God love him, is a sweetheart of a kid.  He’s genuinely sweet and goodnatured, and doesn’t seem to give his parents a moment’s worry.  But he’s not that good at school.  He doesn’t get math…which would be okay, except he also doesn’t get spelling or reading.  And he probably doesn’t get science or history, either.  And his parents, who judge success strictly academically, are not pleased.

And then he meets Callista, who is his sorta-babysitter, sorta-friend.  Callista has a different measuring stick for success and, thanks to her, he starts to see himself a little differently.  Maybe it’s okay that he’s not perfect.  Maybe who he is is more than good enough.

I needed this book and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried while reading it.  We all need someone like Callista, someone who will really see us and help us remember who we are when all we can hear are the voices (internal or external) who chant “not good enough, not smart enough, not enough, not enough, not enough” over and over.

There aren’t enough stars.

Highly, highly recommended.  (PS—I now have her entire backlist.)

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