Friday, January 7, 2022

Review: Being is Better by Marjorie Jackson

I'm staying in sync with yesterday's read and keeping emotions flowing high with another contemporary read. So, don't put those tissue boxes away quite yet. Today's review has such an interesting surmise and I didn't want to pass up on the chance to dive in. Plus, the reviews it's been receiving so far have been amazing.
This one is all about friendship—finding a friend, forming a bond, and learning the value of having someone to share things with and lean on. There isn't even a smidgen of romance, I'm heard. This one also hits upon epilepsy and families struggling to get past a huge loss. It definitely sounds like it could be an engaging read.

Ready to see if it is? 

by Marjorie Jackson
Emery Press Books
Upper Middle Grade Contemporary
314 pages

Fourteen-year-old Amber has battled medical challenges – specifically epilepsy – her whole life. Due to her physical limitations, she has no friends, but does her best to trudge through each day with a smile.

Fellow “middle-school senior” Missy has struggles of her own. Following her brother’s death in Afghanistan, her father uprooted them from everything familiar, only to divorce Missy’s mother and move away, leaving Missy friendless and angry, forced to care for her deeply depressed mother.

Two girls with different pasts, both fighting loneliness.

Can they learn to overcome life’s struggles and tragedies? Can they find each other and battle teen awkwardness together?



Pull out the tissue box because these pages go to the heart and demonstrate the beauty of friendship, especially in the more difficult moments of life.

Two girls, Amber and Missy, are heading into the last year of middle school. Both have problems they're doing their best to deal with. Both are very lonely. Finding a friend isn't something either has really considered, nor have they really tried. But sometimes, life finds a way to pull two together in the most unexpected way.

The story is told from two points of view: Amber's and Missy's. To keep things simple, the girl's name is printed large and bold whenever the switch occurs or a new chapter begins. But these two have such different personalities and situations that it's not hard to figure out, who is who. While Amber is more laid back and has, in many respects, a more serious issue thanks to her difficult form of epilepsy, Missy is more fire than ice a she tries her best to fit in with expectations she can't really meet just to get some peace from her family. The two are both easy to sympathize with, very different, and, yet, similar. Each is trying to do the best they can. Neither wants to hurt or disappoint anyone. 

Both girls come across extremely natural, making each one easy to connect with and know. The author spends about half the book with the girls not aware of the others' existence and dwells on their individual problems and lives. This gave both tons of depth and let the reader know them inside and out. It did slow things down quite a bit, though, too. I found myself skipping over paragraphs, wondering when the two would finally meet. But the pacing also allowed Amber and her condition, to come across extremely well and be handled with the necessary care. That was very well done.

The value of friendship is a strong message in these pages, but it's not the only one. Amber's determination and positive attitude are inspiring. Missy deals with tough family themes such as the loss of a sibling, parents' divorce, and watching a parent go through deep depression. While she struggled , there were many inspiring moments from her side, too, and lessons for life. 

The girls spend a lot of time interacting with their families, which was nice to see. They also spend quite a bit of time during the first chapters interacting with their doctors. Little time was spent with anything else, and I did wonder how their lives outside of these two areas were, especially since both were attending school and other activities...none of which were shown. A large span of time passes in these chapters, and although each of the girls main activities over the summer was hit upon, I missed getting to know more about what each did. For example, Amber volunteers to help with dogs, but only talks excitedly about it. The reader doesn't really get to experience it with her. 

All in all, this is a potent book with more than a few touching moments. Amber and Missy are girls to root for and cheer on as they each inspire in their own way. And neither is easy to forget even after the last page has been read.

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