cover image Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stones

Abby Cooper. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-30287-0

Sixth-grader Elyse was born with "cognadjivisibilitis," a disorder in which the words that anyone uses to describe Elyse appear on her body for weeks at a time. While nice words like "awesome" or "cool" are soothing, unkind words such as "dork" or "loser" itch a lot, and they're more prevalent now that Elyse's protective best friend has abandoned her for the mean popular girls. When someone starts leaving Elyse notes encouraging her to participate more in school, she learns to overcome her fears, make new friends, and become a leader. Self-acceptance is the key in Cooper's debut, but Elyse's struggle to get there is painfully realistic. Her interior thoughts and monthly letters to herself reveal a healthy sense of humor ("Holy high heels, he had eyeballs! That was a surprise considering he was such a furry guy"), but it's Elyse's kindness, perseverance, and smarts that help her rebuild her self-esteem. Cooper's stance on bullying is clear: words can%E2%80%94and do%E2%80%94hurt, but their power over you is only as strong as you allow them to be. Ages 10%E2%80%9312. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (July)