Ode to a Nobody

Holiday House. Dec. 2022. 304p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823451562.
Gr 5-8–Eighth-grader Quinn is an underachiever, a failure who can never live up to her perfect older brother with his perfect grades and perfect college life. Quinn knows this is true because she is the reason her parents fight. She can’t do even a simple ollie like her best friend Jack and Jade, the girl who is taking her place. Then one terrible, siren-splitting, glass-shattering night changes it all. A tornado tears through her neighborhood and her house, uprooting everything Quinn knows about herself. She begins to write poetry. As all of Quinn’s relationships change—meeting new friends,  getting her old ones in trouble, facing her parents’ divorce, and discovering her own talent—she emerges as someone new. The telling of this novel in verse reflects the main character’s own journey into words and poetry while crafting a story of pure emotion. Quinn’s narrative begins fixated on her failure and brother Forest, then morphs into verse reflecting pain, confusion, and confidence as she deals with the storm’s destruction. Varying text styles and placement create a visual playground. The raw emotion of the book means some characters aren’t as well fleshed out as readers might like, and at times Quinn’s voice reads older than 13 years old. Although the cover depicts a redhaired girl with light skin, it is unclear what Quinn or her family look like; there are only hints of other characters’ appearance, such as Jade having blonde hair and tan skin. Place is also amorphous as Quinn lives in an unspecified urban environment. This, however, may allow more readers to relate to the beautiful journey of transition that Quinn embarks upon.
VERDICT A book in verse that vibrates with the emotional transition of a teenager into a confident poet that should find its way to many library shelves.

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