Not if I Can Help It

Not if I Can Help It
Age Range
Release Date
July 30, 2019
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From award-winning Carolyn Mackler, the story of Willa, who has been living with Sensory Processing Disorder but is thrown for a BIG loop when her dad announces he's dating Willa's best friend's mom.

Willa likes certain things to be certain ways. Her socks have to be soft . . . and definitely can't have irritating tags on the inside. She loves the crunch of popcorn and nachos . . . but is grossed out by the crunch of a baby carrot. And slimy foods? Those are the worst.

Willa can manage all these things -- but there are some things she can't deal with, like her father's big news. He's been keeping a big secret from her . . . that he's been dating the mom of Willa's best friend Ruby. Willa does NOT like the idea of them being together. And she does NOT like the idea of combining families. And she does NOT like the idea of her best friend becoming her sister overnight. Will she go along with all of these changes? NOT if she can help it!

Editor review

1 review
Interesting look at Sensory Processing Disorder
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Willa has struggled with a sensory processing disorder her whole life, but with supportive parents and some occupational therapy, she deals with it well enough that she doesn't even tell her best friend, Ruby, about it. She fits in well enough at The Children's School in New York City, where her classmates are all abuzz waiting to hear what their middle school placements will be. Willa and Ruby (who loves soccer and is herself a bit anxious, especially since she seems to have a smaller bladder than everyone else!) are worried that they won't be at the same school. Willa lives with her father and younger brother, and have a babysitter whom they really like. Her mother lives two hours away, where she took a professorship after the parents divorced. She is since remarried, and has approached Willa with the idea of living with her for middle school. All of this anxiety makes it harder for Willa to control her body, and she does get some coping strategies from her therapist, and her teachers know how to redirect her as well. When she finds out that her father and Ruby's mother have been dating for a while, and worse, are in love with each other and thinking about getting married, she is even more stressed. She likes her best friend, but she hates change, and doesn't want Ruby to know about her sensory processing disorder and all of the ways she copes with it. It doesn't help that Avery, a mean girl she's known since preschool, gives her a hard time about it. With the help of the adults in her life, Willa manages to navigate her way through her difficulties and end fifth grade on a high note.
Good Points
This was oddly compelling. I was absolutely sucked into Willa's world, and the details about how she dealt with her issues were enthralling (her dad prewears her socks; I can relate--my daughter prefers it if I break in her tennis shoes!). There's even a buzzing feeling of anxiety conveyed in the text that I can't quite explain. While the 1970s saw a lot of middle grade books about divorce, it's still a common occurrence, and many of my students have to deal with blended families, visiting parents on weekends, and thinking about alternate living arrangements. I have not seen this topic addressed in the literature as much, and this is one of the few books about sensory processing disorders out there.

There are a growing number of books about neurodivergent characters, like Baskin's Anything But Typical, Pla's Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, Hunt's Fish in a Tree, and Mass' A Mango-Shaped Space, and these are good resources for readers who want to understand that not everyone perceives the world in the same way.

There should be more middle grade novels with candy related covers- I think young readers will like the gummy bear so much that they will pick this one up just for that!
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