8 Notes to a Nobody (Bird Face #1)
Cynthia T. Toney
Write Integrity Press
Published September 1, 2015
A cruel comment from a classmate sends thirteen year-old Wendy into a spiral of self-doubt. What can she expect when even her own father barely takes an interest in her life? Mysterious notes from “AFREND” help Wendy see there’s still hope. Who could the notes be from? A cute boy perhaps? When the nasty comments continue to wear her down, Wendy is forced to take drastic measures. She tries changing who she is, hoping it will be enough put the taunting behind her.
This story delves into the anxiety and excitement of middle school, brought to life by a charming narrator. Wendy struggles to find value in herself while her classmates often undermine that journey. I loved the little notes she receives and how those affected her.
When even her best friend takes a jab at Wendy, she decides it’s time to make some changes. She breaks down the process of making a friend into simple steps and commits to following those steps. It sounds simple and obvious, but as I read it I thought, you know, I wish someone had broken this down for me as a seventh grader. Wendy makes it look so easy. And indeed it should be.
She also learns that her classmates lives aren’t what they seem. She discovers some of the students who relentlessly pick on her have dark secrets of their own. She begins to empathize with them as she learns who they really are, despite the fact that they’d picked on her in the past.
The same way that life doesn’t reach neatly finished moments, the story resolves with some unfinished conflict. Because Wendy has made progress toward being the best version of herself – friendly and less self-focused – it’s easy to hope that the other issues in her life will find their own resolutions, too.
Toney’s novel is a great story for middle school students, especially those struggling to find a social niche. While her life isn’t perfect, Wendy’s optimistic attitude and creative spirit make her an easy character to enjoy and admire.
Quick prayers punctuate Wendy’s inner thought life. At a funeral, Wendy’s mom and a friend’s dad briefly discuss whether a suicide victim would find a home in heaven. (No judgment is passed or conclusions drawn.)
While this story tackles some big issues that are too common among teens – anorexia, suicide and bullying – these events are not the focus of the story. No graphic content or glorification occurs.