So B. It by Sarah Weeks, HarperTrophy:
New York, 2005; $6.99
So B. It is possibly one of the most moving, wonderful, descriptive books I have ever read. In this story, the main character, Heidi, is living with her mentally disabled mother and her neighbor, Bernadette. Heidi is used to living in a, well, different household, and has lived that way all her life. Her mother only knows twenty-three words, which they keep a list of in the cabinet. But when Heidi's mother starts saying a word that Bernie and Heidi don't know, Heidi wants to learn about her mother's past.
Something about this book that intrigues me so much is that Sarah Weeks has the ability to make all her characters incredibly real. Nobody is all good or all bad. They have lives, and, if they do appear mean, there is always a reason. While digging into her mother's past, Heidi encounters many interesting characters, all of whom are very different. There's Georgia Sweet, the clever, pretty, body-language expert, Alice, who can talk and talk and talk without the other person getting a word in edgewise, who tricks Heidi into lying continuously, and strange, vague Mr. Hill. This story has little details that many people would overlook. In this book Heidi mentions dinosaur skin, and how nobody really knew what color it was. Heidi was reflecting on what she had just learned about her mother and states, "If truth were a crayon and it was up to me to put a wrapper around it and name its color, I know just what I would call it—dinosaur skin." She takes a look at something nobody really stops to think about.
My mom and I both read this book, and we both cried. The way Sarah Weeks describes things, through the eyes of a twelve-year- old girl, makes it moving and believable—the struggles, the excitement, the sadness, of life itself. So B. It, you may be interested to know, is what Heidi's mother calls herself. When Heidi and her mother showed up on Bernie's doorstep, Heidi's mother called herself So Be It, and Bernie, thinking she had to have a proper name, changed it to So B. It. It is the kind of book that gets you hooked after reading the first page. In Sarah Weeks's other book, called Jumping the Scratch, it is the same thing. The main character wants to find out something (the meaning of a word, or just a word in general) and will go all out to find it. As soon as you start reading it, you will too! The way it is written gets you interested with the end, and makes you just have to finish it. It is, in my opinion, a very good and tricky writing technique.
My grandmother's sister (my great aunt) is mentally disabled, so I know what it would be like to be Heidi, although it would be very different to have a mentally disabled mother. My great aunt can be extremely unpredictable, sweet one moment, throwing tantrums the next, but we love her very much all the same. She has a full vocabulary, unlike Heidi's mother, but in many ways they are similar. So B. It teaches an important life lesson, as well as being a fantastic read just for fun. This was a spectacular book, and I hope I have interested you in it!