I picked up Wendelin van Draanen’s Flipped (Knopf, $8.95) years ago on a business trip because the cover is so great. It is streamlined, uncluttered, and just intriguing enough to spark my curiosity. The back matter is also very well done, the two stories are intertwined and upside down. You read Bryce’s story from top to bottom and then flip the book over to read Julianna’s. I bought the book and read it over dinner. (I once read this Dilbert comic where he says to the server, “I’m not a loser who can’t get a date; I’m a business traveler.” I’d always think about that line when I was traveling for business and eating alone.) Anyway, Flipped is really amazing. I’ve re-read it several times over the years and I love it every time. Julianna and Bryce are in 7th grade, but they met the summer before 2nd. They live across the street from each other and even this tiny distance completely affects their perspective on what’s happening between them. Each chapter flips the story; we hear Bryce’s perspective and then Julianna’s. Or the other way around. Not only are their stories flipped, from the beginning Julianna has flipped over Bryce. Julianna is a phenomenal character. She’s not like all the other kids and her unique perspective on the world, along with her ability to rise above and see the bigger picture, makes her one of my all-time favorite literary characters. Bryce tries really hard to keep his feet on the ground, and stay safe, but he grows on you. It might be his bright blue eyes. Or maybe it’s because he starts to step outside his comfort zone and flip his own perspective, slowly becoming even more awesome than the one-dimensional image of him that Julianna has created. Although, by this time Julianna’s own views about Bryce have started to flip . . .
Lest I’ve given the impression that this book is a cute romance à la Little Manhattan, I do want to say that there is a lot more going on in this book besides Julianna and Bryce’s tumultuous relationship. Both characters have extremely interesting and complex family structures. I cry every time Julianna and her dad visit her uncle and then again when Bryce learns about his own birth from his grandfather. There are no easy answers in either family, but the connections and family dynamics create depth and complexity for both Julianna and Bryce. Secondary characters, including their teacher and friends, are fleshed out enough to give the story more depth. As for the movie that came out in 2010, it is surprisingly true to the story and I admit I love it. But the book is better : )