Crying Laughing

Knopf. Nov. 2019. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525644675.
Gr 7 Up–Winnie is the funniest girl—no, person—in her class. She knows it, along with her two best friends, though a very traumatic bat mitzvah stand-up routine has prevented Winnie from sharing her gift of comedy with the rest of her school. That is until Evan, a cute and funny boy, convinces her to join the school’s improv troupe. Winnie is excited to share the news with her father, a former aspiring comedian and her main collaborator on endless inside jokes. Her news is overshadowed when she discovers her father has ALS. As her family struggles with the realities of her father’s failing health, Winnie personally struggles with finding her voice in the improv troupe as well as in her first romantic relationship. As suggested by the title, humor balances out the anguish felt by Winnie and her family as they cope with her father’s illness. The reality of finding it okay to laugh while crying makes this story as funny as it is poignant. Winnie faces many big issues besides her father’s illness. From learning how to know her worth in a romantic relationship to finding strength in her female friendships, Winnie’s story is handled with authenticity and heart. While readers will want to know if she can conquer her fear and perform at the big improv show, the real satisfaction is in Winnie’s journey. The deft movement between laughter and tears will appeal to fans of John Green.
VERDICT Grab a box of tissues and be prepared for the awkward stares when laughing out loud.

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