The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell


Abby doesn't fit in with the girls at her school in spite of her parents' pressure to lose weight and get along. After months of enduring the harsh company of 'the medium girls,' Abby finally stands up for herself and goes off on her own. This brings harsh consequences from the girls, but Abby makes new and better friends.

In an attempt to avoid the petty girls from school, Abby follows a mysterious fox and a persistent dog. These animals lead her across a stream in her neighborhood where she meets a family of true friends. Anders is a nine-year-old boy homeschooled by his grandmother. The two of them are taking care of Anders's father, who is badly affected by his experiences fighting the war in Iraq. As Abby spends time trying to help these and other new friends, she learns more about her own strengths. She also learns that life doesn't need to be controlled by the 'medium girls' and she is strong enough to stand up to them.

This is a well-constructed book showing the reality of peer pressure and the power of finding your place in the world. It effectively shows the struggles of the tween years, with moments of pain and discouragement, but an overall feeling of triumph. The story is intriguing and the message is both applicable to the intended audience and very uplifting.

Recommended for ages-9-12.

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