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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Still A Work in Progress, by Jo Knowles. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.99 ages 11 and up

"When I go into the kitchen, I can tell Emma is still upset, because she's chopping vegetables with a vengeance and every time my dad opens the oven to baste the turkey, she runs out of the room, saying the smell is making her sick. I have nowhere to go but escape to my room with the Captain, who hates it when Emma gets angry. I wonder if his dog-years ratio is even worse because of the stress ... "

As if being in seventh grade isn't enough for Noah. If you remember being there at all, or have someone you love living in those shoes at the moment, you know about school expectations, friendships and the hormonal changes that are happening to challenge any young teenager. For Noah, family life is also a big issue.

Noah's voice is strong, emotional and often matter of fact. He goes to a small school in a small town where everyone knows everyone. School is school. His family life? Not so much. His sister Emma has a lingering eating disorder. A previous crisis struck the family hard. Since then, they have managed to skirt the issue by not acknowledging or talking about it. However, the impact is forceful  and the family is constantly focused on Emma's demands concerning what they all eat. No one wants her to go back to where she once was. Be that as it may, not acknowledging it adds to the stress and does nothing to assure the problem is solved.

Once again, Emma must return to a treatment center. This time it is long-term care. The family barely copes. Noah's account of the downhill slide runs the gamut of emotions felt when a family is in crisis ... guilt, sadness, anxiety and an inability to understand how it all came to be. The writing is personal, immediate and gives readers a clear picture of the impact felt by all members of the family as they struggle to understand and deal with an eating disorder.

Often humorous, Noah helps readers see that the many everyday things that happen at school - stinky lockers, first love, boring classes, pimples, - can be a focus for his attention when problems at home threaten to overwhelm him. Help from those who have his best interests at heart make coping with what he cannot understand easier.

Don't miss it!

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