Reviews for Second Life of Abigail Walker

Booklist Reviews 2012 September #2
*Starred Review* Abigail Walker is a large girl living in a medium-sized world. She tries to fit in at school with a group of girls whose purpose is defined by how bad they make her feel. On top of that, her father nags her about her weight, and her mother fails to recognize how her insistence on constant harmony is inherently unfair. What Abby wants is "rough edges" and permission "to feel whatever it was she was feeling." When she encounters a fox in an overgrown lot across the street from her house, it has a talismanic effect, and Abby starts to see how social expectations do not define her own happiness. Dowell masterfully handles the hot-button topic of bullying and will have readers contemplating the pettiness and self-loathing that supports it. Beating at the triumphant heart of the book is Abigail's realization that life is fullest when experienced genuinely. This is a story of Abigail's crossings: crossing a computer lab to make a friend; crossing a street to find peaceful isolation; crossing a creek to escape a tormentor; and crossing all the lines drawn to prevent her from feeling alive inside. A timely and heartening book for today's middle schoolers. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Sixth-grader Abigail Walker believes that she will never be seen as anything more than "tubby Abby." Her parents are constantly putting her on a diet, and even her so-called friends mock her weight. But when Abby finally stands up for herself, her life begins to change. Mystical elements and subplots aren't smoothly integrated, but Abby's struggle with accepting herself rings true.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 June #2
When Abby's one-time friend whispers to her, "You're dead," Abby knows it's true. Maybe not dead physically, but dying inside. Avoiding Georgia and Kristen, who make snarky remarks about her weight in the lunchroom, the sixth-grader makes new friends, including two Indian-American boys whose easy tolerance is refreshing. Fleeing a home visit by the two bullying girls, she meets 9-year-old Anders, whose father is also dying inside. The Iraq War veteran is frightened by much of the peaceful world of the family horse farm, where he waits for space in a VA hospital. For "Tubby Abby," farm visits are both physically and emotionally helpful. As she did in The Secret Language of Girls (2004) and its sequel, The Kind of Friends We Used to Be (2009), Dowell weaves themes of friendship and personal growth into a rich and complex narrative. A third story strand follows the desert fox Abby meets in the overgrown lot across the street from her house, adding a fantasy element and further connections. Like the fox in the Wendell Barry epigraph, some of Abby's tracks are in the wrong direction. But her resurrection is satisfying. Middle school mean girls are not uncommon, in fiction or in life, but seldom has an author so successfully defeated them without leaving her protagonist or her reader feeling a little bit mean herself. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 June #3

In a powerful story about learning to be proud of one's true self and rising above bullies, sixth-grader Abby is sick of the "medium girls," who weigh the right amount and say all the right things, and of her parents, who are on her case about dieting and fitting in. She is even more tired of her own efforts to stay in the clique's good graces. One day Abby walks away from their taunts, a small step that takes her life in a new direction. A fox bites her, and she follows a dog across a creek where she meets eight-year-old Anders and his father, who is recovering from serving in Iraq. They invite her to help with a research project, which leads to new friends at school and unexpected happiness. Occasional chapters follow the fox Abby meets, whose story is slowly revealed as it intersects with Abby's. Dowell (Ten Miles Past Normal) creates a sympathetic and honest heroine with a flair for drama, humor, and creativity, and she resists a tidy ending in a novel that feels both timeless and entirely of-the-moment. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

Gr 4-6--Abby Walker just wants to be like everyone else, until the day that she decides it's OK to be herself. The sixth grader is on the heavy side and has her own ideas. But she has desperately wanted to be friends with the popular girls, who quickly reject and bully her when she stands up for herself. Once she leaves them behind, Abby realizes that there is another world to discover. She doesn't gain superhuman strength or experience a huge boost in confidence; she simply becomes free from the shackles of trying to please everyone at school. Abby is befriended by two nerdy boys and becomes friends with a boy whose father is recovering from PTSD after returning from Iraq. This latter relationship also helps her to put things into perspective and to overcome the challenges she faces. Juxtaposed with her story is a surreal tale about an anthropomorphic fox that wants to help Abby. Every few chapters are devoted to the animal even as the two story lines intertwine. This novel about a character finding her place even if it isn't what she imagined for herself is a great addition to collections on character building.--Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City

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