Why Can't I Be You

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Why Can't I Be You
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
June 19, 2018
ISBN
978-0062567208
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Claire Ladd knows that this summer is going to be special. She and her two best friends, Ronan and Brianna, are turning twelve. She is leaving camp behind and gets to do what she wants all day. She feels everything starting to change. But things don’t always change for the better. With Brianna’s cousin Eden visiting for the summer, Claire feels like a third wheel. Even though she is only a year older, Eden seems so much more sophisticated and glamorous . . . and when she's around, she takes up everyone’s attention, including Brianna’s. But that doesn’t explain why things have felt awkward with Brianna ever since she moved to a fancy new house, or why Ronan, who lives in the trailer next to Claire’s, has started acting moody anytime anyone mentions his dad. Claire has always been happy with her life just as it is, but as the summer wears on and the issues with her friends start to grow, she can’t help but wonder: Would everything be better if she could just be someone else?

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2 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.2
Plot 
 
4.0  (2)
Characters 
 
4.5  (2)
Writing Style 
 
4.0  (2)
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0

Summer isn't always all fun.

Claire is very excited about summer, because she is being allowed to stay home by herself. Her friend and neighbor, Ronan, has plenty of plans for things they can do around the trailer park where they live. Things start to get derailed a bit when Claire's friend Brianna introduces them to her cousin, Eden, who is a year older than they are and acts like she's 16 rather than 12. It also doesn't help that Brianna has moved into a fancy new house with a pool, and Claire starts to feel a bit bad about her mother cleaning houses for other people, and about living in a small home. Ronan's father is back after having left the family for a while, but he is struggling with depression, and this is impacting Ronan's life. Claire's own father is very supportive, has frequent visitations, and gets along well enough with her mother. Summer's not bad, but it's more confusing than Claire expected, and Eden seems to be siphoning off Claire's friends, including Ronan. Will this affect their joint birthday party planned for the end of the summer?

Good Points
Like this author's Let's Pretend We Never Met, this book explores the difficulties of navigating friendships in middle school. I love that Walker takes very common facets of middle grade friendships that are rarely covered in literature and deftly explores them. It is really hard to have friends who are wealthier, even if your family is happy with what they have, and it's annoying to lose a friend to someone who is "cooler". Eden is an all too common type of 12 year old, and it's nice to see her contrasted against an ordinary 11 year old who doesn't really care that much about clothing or boys (other to have them as friends). Bonus points for having her be biracial-- my own daughters have biracial cousins who are younger than they are, but it is a common occurrence that I have only ever seen mentioned in Kate Hannigan's The Cupcake Cousins. I really liked Claire's network of support and how it manages to extend to help Ronan. With such an appealing cover, this will never be on the shelves.
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Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
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Sensitivity and Perception

'Why Can't I Be You' by Melissa Walker follows main character Claire through the summer when she turns twelve. Even though life should be pretty easy and fun at such a young age, Claire finds herself troubled by issues of friendship and perception. Having lived her life in a trailer park, she has never thought herself less than anyone else, but with more and more not-so-joking statements coming up from kids she goes to school with, she begins to wonder if her life is not as good or normal as she once thought.

Being pretty young still, and not being able to understand that life doesn't have to revolve around where someone lives or how much money they have, Claire lashes out at those close to her, not meaning to hurt them, but trying to find meaning for herself in the issues that are plaguing her. Her best girlfriend, Brianna, has also moved into a new and pretty ritzy home with a fancy new pool and lots of other items that Claire can only wish for, and her other best friend, Ronan, who lives in the trailer park with her, isn't helping to calm her nerves. Rather, he is trying to fit in more with the people who Claire sees as making fun of them, and it makes her question her perception of life in general and what is truly important.

Little does Claire know that not everything is always as it seems, and even those who seem like they have everything together and are living perfect lives are often hiding secrets of their own. Brianna's cousin, Eden, is one of these seemingly perfect people that everyone has known at some point or another in their lives. She is the type of person who drives others crazy with her confidence and certainty in life, but it is important to remember that it is impossible to ever know someone fully, and judgments make coming to understanding with others harder.

It's perfectly normal to wish to be someone else once in a while. Life often seems so much easier from someone else's perspective, hence the "grass is always greener on the other side" phrase. 'Why Can't I Be You' implores readers to better understand how to cope with judgment and perception, and learn how to be happy with life as it is, since everyone's happiness is entirely subjective and dependent on any number of factors. It will help readers be more thoroughly sensitive to not only others, but to their own individual situations.

Good Points
'Why Can't I Be You' implores readers to better understand how to cope with judgment and perception, and learn how to be happy with life as it is, since everyone's happiness is entirely subjective and dependent on any number of factors. It will help readers be more thoroughly sensitive to not only others, but to their own individual situations.
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