Book Review: Cross My Heart and Never Lie by Nora Dåsnes, Matt Bagguley (Translator)
In this fresh, sensitive, diary-style graphic novel, 12-year-old Tuva’s questions about becoming a teenager are confusing—so when her first crush turns out to be on another girl, it feels absolutely wonderful—so why does it become so complicated?
Perfect for fans of The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag, HeartStopper by Alice Oseman, and Jen Wang’s The Dressmaker and the Prince.
Tuva is starting seventh grade, and her checklist of goals includes: writing out a diary, getting a trendy look, building the best fort in the woods with her BFFs, and much more. But when she starts school, nothing is how she hoped it would be.
Seventh grade has split her friends into rival factions: TEAM LINNEA and the girls who fall in love and TEAM BAO and the girls who NEVER fall in love. Linnea has a BOYFRIEND, Bao hates everything related to love. Worst of all, Linnea and Bao expect Tuva to choose a side!
In this delightfully hand-lettered coming-of-age graphic diary, Tuva gets caught between feeling like a kid and wanting to know HOW to become a teenager. Then Miriam shows up and suddenly Tuva feels as if she’s met her soulmate. Can you fall in love with a girl, keep it from your friends, and survive? For Tuva, it may be possible, but it’s definitely not easy.
“Acting like a teenager feels awkward. Almost like a game.”
Oh, Tuva. I want to climb into this book and hug you.
Tuva, a 7th grader in Norway, has high hopes for her school year. She really just wants to have the best year ever and start to experience typical teenage things—sleepovers, getting a cool new look, maybe falling in love. But she also wants to still play make believe games outside and not worry about crushes or dating or the politics of middle school friendships. She’s in that total in-between place, especially as one best friend goes all in for make-up and boyfriends and shopping and her other best friend is content to still have fun in the ways they always have. Tuva tries to have it both ways, keeping both friends as her little group starts to fall apart, but it’s hard. It requires some lying, which is never great and almost certainly will hurt someone’s feelings. In her corner is her wonderful father, her only parent, who makes her playlists and is always there for her, even if she doesn’t necessarily want to turn to him through all of this.
And then there’s Mariam, the new girl, who is happy to do her own thing. She and Tuva immediately connect and Tuva realizes that she has a crush on Mariam. Finally, here is her first glimmer of maybe falling in love, and she just sort of thinks, huh, okay, I like a girl. It’s not a big deal to her. Some of her peers make it into a big deal, but Tuva’s takeaway is not that there’s anything wrong with her crush but just that there’s this divide with the kids her age, those who have crushes and those who don’t, and it’s really a lot. She confides all of this to her amazing dad, who completely loves and supports her and doesn’t so much as blink when she says she likes Mariam. It’s such a touching scene and one I want for all kids who have this conversation.
Growing up is hard. It is awkward. It does feel like a game. But Tuva has what it takes to get through this weird time of life—good friends, a loving parent, and a growing sense of self and identity. A really lovely look at all the changes that can come with being 12.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Hippo Park/Astra Publishing House
Publication date: 09/19/2023
Age Range: 10 – 13 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network