Monday, June 11, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: Soof by Sarah Weeks

Soof by Sarah Weeks. 208 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 9, 2018. 9780545846691.

When I heard about Soof back in the fall, my first thought was, "Ooh! I hope my SLJ editor assigns it to me!" I had the pleasure of reviewing Pie for the journal in 2011. Back in 2005, before I started blogging or reviewing, I adored So B. It. But really, I enjoy everything that Sarah Weeks writes. Then I remembered the 250 word maximum for reviews and the fact that I need to write more formally and objectively. I realized that I would be fine not reviewing Soof for SLJ. I thought that if I could get my hands on an arc, I could gush and meander to my heart's content here on the blog. Thanks to Mary and Trish at Books, Bytes and Beyond, who loaned me their arc.

Anyone who has read So B. It knows that "soof" (spoiler alert) is Heidi It's mother's word for love. They also understand the importance of the jar of jellybeans on the cover of Soof. But Soof can very definitely stand alone.

I will synopsize very loosely and vaguely. Ruby and Sheriff Roy finally had a daughter whom they named Aurora, or Rory. She's in fifth grade now. Soof is her first-person narration. She has no friends, except for her dog, Duck and acknowledges that she is weird. She has grown up hearing Heidi stories and how Heidi brought her parents luck. Blah, blah, blah. Aurora doesn't feel at all lucky and now that Heidi is married, about to have a baby of her own and coming to visit, Aurora is less than pleased. She might even be feeling a bit threatened.

I will admit that when I heard the premise, I wondered how Weeks would pull it off. Heidi would be around twenty-four, a bit young for someone to be married and having a baby in my neighborhood. I became curious about her story. What happened in the intervening years? But this is Aurora's story and it's just perfect. I fell in love with Aurora immediately. Her voice is instantly engaging. She's keenly observant, unapologetically frank and often hilarious. I warn you though; there will be tears. And goosebumps at the end. I ached for her. I also ached for Ruby, who loves her daughter fiercely and wants to do right by her.

Weeks has a knack for getting at emotional truths with an economy of words. Most of her books are under 200 pages but her characters and settings are vivid and memorable. Like Aurora, she's an astute observer who also has an ear for authentic tween dialogue. (She's not as prickly as Aurora though.) She visited our school back in September and the students were so attentive because she was incredibly interesting and connected to them. During her presentation, she shared a photo she took that inspired a scene in Soof. When I got to that scene in the book, I was floored. Again, I'm being deliberately vague here in order for you to approach this with as few preconceptions as possible. It's the tiny details that etch scenes into your heart. 

Soof is a first-purchase. A perfect book for any reader; but fans of So B. It will devour it whole and turn back to page one to begin again, as I did. I can also open the book at any page and fall in love again. Give it to fans of gentler books or books featuring endearingly oddball narrators. Look for it early October. 

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