cover image Still a Work in Progress

Still a Work in Progress

Jo Knowles. Candlewick, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7217-1

The quotidian struggles of middle school—unrequited crushes, stinky lockers, boring academics—pale in comparison to the difficulties at seventh-grader Noah Morin’s home, where his older sister, Emma, is wasting away by refusing to eat. Knowles (See You at Harry’s) sensitively explores the pain of having a sibling with an eating disorder, including the exhaustion caused by constant worry, the lack of attention for the healthy child, and the tension at every meal as the family tries to accommodate Emma’s dietary whims while closely monitoring how much she consumes. The story seesaws, sometimes uneasily, between some of the lighter situations that Noah is dealing with—crushes, a hairless therapy cat that roams the school hallways killing mice, a farting dog, etc.—and the dire one involving Emma. Even so, the relative lack of eating disorder stories told from a male point of view (especially for middle graders) makes this a welcome addition to the canon and a realistic look at how one person’s severe illness can adversely affect everyone around them. Ages 10–14. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Aug.)