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Reading the Rainbow: Speed of Life

June 20, 2017

It’s too bad that Carol Weston’s Speed of Life does not have enough content* for me to nominate it for Rainbow, because I enjoyed every page of this book, which is about an eighth-grader whose mother died months ago and everyone seems ready to move on but her.

Sofia goes to an all-girls’ school in New York City. She doesn’t know much about boys but she knows about grief, because it’s with her all the time since the sudden death of her mother the year before. She’s just finished her first birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s without her mother and everyone seems to think the new year should have cleared away the pain and sadness. Then an advice columnist comes to speak at her school, and everything starts changing fast. Sofia exchanges emails with “Dear Kate” to help her navigate life, and there’s such a great Alice vibe–the Naylor Alice, not the Carroll one. (If you haven’t read the Alice series, you totally should.) But as the year goes on, Sofia’s grief turns into growth in a story that never gets too sweet or too sad.

One of the things I loved about this book was that it FEELS like a year. Another is that even when things are obvious to the reader, it never feels like they have to be for Sofia. She’s a very young fourteen because she’s never had to be anything else. When she starts to become more mature, it’s a very natural process. The difference between Sofia at fourteen and Sofia at fifteen is huge, but not unrealistic.

Another great thing about this book is that Sofia speaks fluent Spanish because she is actually half-Spanish.  It’s not a choice that’s made often in books–usually, if one parent is European, they are English, French, or maybe Italian. The book does not translate every phrase used, though it does with most of them, and Sofia’s being bilingual is not a big part of the book, but it comes up naturally over and over. The fact that her father’s Spanish is clunky at best, non-existent at worst, seems very real as well.

All in all, this is a great book for a middle schooler looking to start moving up to YA, especially one who is looking to read about real life. Weston, an advice columnist herself, does a good job of using Dear Kate and Sofia’s father, a gynecologist, to explore big questions in an age-appropriate way.

*Three gay/bi background characters and one question to Dear Kate about being bisexual or lesbian if members of the opposite sex don’t pay attention to you.
Some links on this blog may be referrals. I’ve been out sick from work for months now, so if you appreciate the review and decide to purchase the book, please use the link.

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