Written by Jo Knowles
Eighth graders Noah, Sam, and Ryan are just beginning to figure out the intricacies of the world – intricacies involving girls, their own talents, how to act like a decent human being, and what makes each of us unique. Their school has a suggestion box, otherwise known as the Complaint Box, which produces such useful suggestions as “Don’t stand on the toilet seats.” The boys spend a lot of time trying to figure out which girls they like and which girls like them. Meanwhile, Noah’s sister, Emma, still remembers all the things that happened to her when she was a student at Noah’s school, including how everyone reacted when it was discovered she made a list of which students would follow the Beast a la Lord of the Flies. The school also has a resident cat ironically named Curly. Many at the school love Curly, but hate her role as killer of the mice. Sam and Ryan begin bickering when Sam gets a girlfriend. When Emma’s eating disorder relapses, Noah has a tough time accepting the actions of anyone around him. He does find some solace in realizing his talents in art, particularly sculpture.
This heartwarming peek at adolescence and how complicated it can get is highly recommended for all. The author weaves in many parallels: between the Lord of the Flies and the Beast in all of us, between A Separate Peace and Noah’s tough times with his friends, and so on. She stays true to the adolescent theme by not knowing too much. The boys have some confusion over second base regarding dating. She never names the eating disorder, just the results of it. And the boys often recognize a bad situation without knowing what to do about it.
- Title: Still a Work in Progress
- Illustrator: Amy June Bates
- Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
- Grade Level: 5 to 9
- Genre: Friendship, eating disorders, coming of age
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-7217-1