Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

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Review: Three Amazing Things About You by Jill MansellĀ 

What do you get when you cross a secret advice columnist with an extreme adventurer? A lot of heart. You also get three beautiful relationships, complex subplotting, kooky exes, and the kind of meet-cute nobody wishes for but everyone would be lucky to experience. 

Jill Mansell continues to impress me with her masterful weaving together of many complicated threads to make one gorgeous and substantial piece of art. Her characters are perfect for each other, whether in friendships, professional relationships, or budding romances. And the believable creativity in how the characters’ paths cross is nothing short of amazing. Even though there are a dozen or more characters, I kept track of them easily because Mansell writes them as real individuals, not as stereotypes or personas.  I enjoyed the effortless reading of this ostensibly “light” novel that really is substantive in covering controversial social issues and difficult family relationships. The many layers of plots are clearly defined, easy to understand, and richly developed.  

Three Amazing Things About You is right up there with Millie’s Fling and my other favorite Mansells.  So. Good. 

-calliope

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