Book Review: Ode to a Nobody by Caroline Brooks DuBois
A devastating tornado tears apart more than just houses in this striking novel in verse about a girl rebuilding herself.
Before the storm, thirteen-year-old Quinn was happy flying under the radar. She was average. Unremarkable. Always looking for an escape from her house, where her bickering parents fawned over her genius big brother.
Inside our broken home / we didn’t know how broken / the world outside was.
But after the storm, Quinn can’t seem to go back to average. Her friends weren’t affected by the tornado in the same way. To them, the storm left behind a playground of abandoned houses and distracted adults. As Quinn struggles to find stability in the tornado’s aftermath, she must choose: between homes, friendships, and versions of herself.
Nothing that was mine / yesterday is mine today.
Told in rich, spectacular verse, Caroline Brooks DuBois crafts a powerful story of redemption as Quinn makes her way from Before to After. There’s nothing average about the world Quinn wakes up to after the storm; maybe there’s nothing average about her, either. This emotional coming-of-age journey for middle grade readers proves that it’s never too late to be the person you want to be.
I can’t review everything I get here or even everything I end up reading. I’d need a whole bunch more hours in a day to do those things. Usually I sort through book mail (repeatedly, over the course of its life on my shelves) and kind of know what I plan to read, what I likely will not read, what I’d like to write a longer review of, and what I’ll maybe do a quick post-it review of. When I stuck this book in my bag for work, I thought, okay, my December looks pretty full, so I’ll probably do a quick review of this on a post-it. Then I started reading. And hung onto every word. And ended up wanting to hug Quinn. And wanted to make sure you knew about this book’s existence.
Quinn, sometimes Quinnie, is in 8th grade and grappling with the most complicated and significant thing a person can grapple with: becoming oneself. When I was not much older than Quinn, I was in love with the show My So-Called Life. At one point, Angela mused, “People always say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something. Like you can know what it is, even. But every so often, I’ll have like, a moment, where being myself and my life right where I am is, like, enough.” Quinn is working to figure out who she is. It’s a time in her life that’s complicated by her parents possibly splitting up, her best friend maybe not being the right fit for her anymore, and a tornado upending so much of her life. It is not easy to watch your family and your friendships change. Not just watch it—live it. Change with it. It’s not easy to realize you are changing, outgrowing some things, ready to try other things. Quinn is meeting new people, realizing she likes writing poetry, and taking a greater interest in her community and helping others. Pranks and glib remarks and negative attitudes are maybe not so interesting to her anymore. Going along with things just to go along is maybe not how she wants to live.
This beautiful novel in verse, a novel all about poetry and the power that comes from writing and discovery, is not to be missed. The message about leaning into and accepting yourself is an important one. As Quinn’s teacher tells her, “Be who you are meant to be.” That’s a good reminder for anyone at any age, but a particularly important message during adolescence.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 12/06/2022
Age Range: 10-14 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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