IT ALL BEGINS WITH JELLY BEANS by Nova Weetman
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Since her dad dies, the nurse’s office has been Meg’s haven while at school. She can just sit alone, listening to the refrigerator hum and breathing into her paper bag to stave off a panic attack. Sometimes the nurse even gives her food to eat, which is good because Meg doesn’t always have breakfast. Or dinner. Or even real shoes since she outgrew her old ones and her mom hasn’t been in any condition to take her shopping for new ones. She doesn’t think anyone noticed she wears slippers to school every day until the newest 6th grade girl shows up in the nurse’s office with a bag of jelly beans.
Riley hasn’t been keeping her Type 1 Diabetes a secret really. She’s been testing during the day, just probably not as often as she should. And if the nurse calls her mom, her life will be officially over. Her mom is already insanely overprotective, never letting her do anything on her own. It’s one of the reasons she has such a hard time fitting in with her new friends. But at least she has friends, unlike Meg, the weird girl who always wears the same shirt and slippers to school. Riley doesn’t mean to give Meg the nickname “Slipper Girl.” It’s just something that slips out when she’s back in class with her popular friends. But as Riley’s friends’ bullying of Meg intensifies, Riley and Meg keep encountering each other in the nurse’s office and start to wonder if they might be kindred spirits after all.
This sweet friendship story has a beautiful blend of humor and sincerity, heartbreak and hope. The extreme opposite behaviors of the two moms allow Riley and Meg to each understand and appreciate their families more, and the way the school community (bullies excepted) supports both girls as they struggle for safety and acceptance made me smile more than a little. I highly recommend this one to middle grade fans of contemporary fiction.