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Author Judy Irwin's books are about kids dealing with everyday stuff, like parents and divorce, friendships and bullies, and figuring out how to handle different situations and circumstances. She lives in Toronto with a dog, a cat, and a hamster, plus her husband and two children, ages 11 and 14.
She's written three books so far. In the first, called 'What Did You Say?', 12-year-old Tash and her mom are spending a month at a trailer park up north, right after Tash's parents divorce. This is where Tash first meets Luke, Jon and Polly.
'We're Done' is about 13-year-old Luke, who gets kicked out of his private school and loses his best friend over an act of bullying. Tash and Jon, from the first book, are also characters in this one.
'What's It To You?' is about 13-year-old Tim, who first appears as Luke's classmate in 'We're Done'. Tim has to decide if his new friendship with Harrison (also from 'We're Done') is right for him.
For Judy, the middle school years are especially interesting since they can be some of the most challenging for kids. It's a time when kids are faced with new issues, and bigger problems, than many have experienced before. As they figure out how they feel, and decide how to respond, they're also figuring out who they are, and shaping the nature of the person they will grow into.
on Oct. 20, 2012 :
We're Done is a timely book considering the tragic news stories I see, time and again, of kids killing themselves over bullying.
This book takes a different tack, though, and casts the bully as our hero. It was a bit difficult for me to like Luke at first, and that's a brave thing for an author to do: give us a protagonist we don't care for.
Luke isn't mean on purpose, he just doesn't realize what he's doing is really hurting people. He's got it all: he's popular, cute, smart, captain of the soccer team at a ritzy private school. What he needs is a kick from reality right in his rear. And he gets it.
His "goofing off" gets him expelled from school. Worse, this last incident involved a family member of his best friend, now ex-best friend. He loses everything: school, friends, status. More, his parents are pretty well unavailable. His mother spends most of her life sleeping, and his father travels for work. His sister is a worse bully than he is, and the little we see of her is just horrible.
He's plunged into the foreign world of public school and it's a big awakening. Suddenly he's not the cool kid anymore. He's the one made fun of. He doesn't fit in anywhere, and he can't even play soccer. The one person he knows is someone he hurt the summer before, and she wants nothing to do with him.
Luke doesn't undergo an immediate transformation, for which I am grateful. It takes awhile, and a few virtual slaps to the head, for him to see what he'd done in the past was hurtful. He observes some kids doing the same stuff he used to do to another kid, and it all slowly starts to come clear. The author paints a very realistic picture of school and kids and it's both a little sad and encouraging.
I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, enlightening read with a snappy plot and clean, descriptive writing. My only complaint is that not all the ends were tied up. I really wanted to see Luke take a stand with his sister and her behavior. I'd have like to see at least a little of the problems with his parents cleared up (Luke does confront his dad, though nothing much really changes). Even so, the book does have a satisfying ending with Luke and his growth. And it left me wondering just what came next. I was attached to this kid I hadn't liked at first, and I want to know he succeeds.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)