All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins

5 stars
This is a beautiful book. School Library Journal called it poignant. I think that might be the perfect word for it. 

I laughed out loud. I got a little weepy. I experienced shivers of pleasure as I read exquisitely written phrases, paragraphs and whole pages, again and again. Here are few snippets.

"I didn't know how to wash away a crumminess that was swimming around in my heart."

"My dance on the pedestal was my friendship with Maureen. I wasn't sure how I had lost my balance and fallen off. Or whether I was pushed. Everyone around me was trying to get me to dance again. The thing was, I hadn't quite given up on getting back up there. I still believed it was the only place where I could be happy."

"I thought Marie could handle whatever came along. I thought of her as someone who did whatever she wanted to. That's what she would have said. She skipped school a lot, and when she did come, no one seemed to care what she did. The principals and teachers at school had already given up on Marie. They hardly even saw her, except as some kind of blemish. She could have stood on her head wearing a burlap bag, and nobody would have noticed all that much. They thought she was stupid. She wasn't stupid." 

Growing up is about making sense of the world and people around you. It's about seeing it and them in new ways. It's about loss. It's about gain. It's about what remains. 

This is the story of Debbie, a young girl, as she enters the process of figuring it out. It begins with the loss of a best friend and ends with a celebration of friendship. In between she grows up a bit, starts to see beyond the surface of things, and moves towards becoming an amazing young woman. 

These characters have become friends of mine. I grew up in the times this book was set in. Debbie could have been my neighbour. I wish I could have known her for real when I was that age. I know we'd still be friends these 45 years later. 

Perkins' writing is so delicate and deft. I am in awe of her ability to reveal, ever so subtly, that how we figure the world out, and what we come to comprehend as true, is predicated on where we start from, and who we are lucky enough to have as our role models. 

It's been a few years since I listened to Criss Cross, the companion to this book. After reading this one and realizing that the books are filled with whimsical illustrations, I think I am going to have to go and reread it with my eyes. 

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