cover image Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living

Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living

Rebecca Rupp, . . Candlewick, $13.99 (84pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3220-5

Written as witty, off-the-cuff journal entries, this inviting novel takes preadolescent angst and doses it with pure heart. Like the heroine of Jennifer L. Holm's Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf , pudgy 12-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Simpson has a penchant for making lists, and these elaborate upon her many concerns. Her first entry, for January 1, combines a cool running commentary with no less than five lists, among them “Things I Do Not Like About Kim [her father's new wife],” “Things I Do Not Like About Jonah [her mother's boyfriend]” and New Year's resolutions she wishes Jonah would make (“2. Sell the van.... 4. Quit singing 'We Shall Overcome.' 5. Shave”). Although Sarah's tone ranges widely, from resentful to full-out funny (“Bad Things About Getting Older:... 7. Getting asked on dates. 8. Not getting asked on dates”), her vulnerable yet take-charge personality comes through. It finds its sharpest expression when Sarah, acting from a complicated set of motives that the author wisely leaves to readers to untangle, says something wounding to Jonah's five-year-old son and can't undo the damage. Covering a lot of territory in relatively few pages, Rupp (The Dragon of Lonely Island ) delivers a story that both touches and convinces. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)