‘The Only Girl in School’ by Natalie Standiford, illustrated by Nathan Durfee, shines a light on one of the biggest fears any young person – or older person, for that matter – can have. Being the only one can sometimes be seen as a gift, in that the person is unique. Yet, the fact that Claire is the only girl in her school, owing to the fact that she lives in a small town and her best girl friend has moved away, puts a spotlight on what she only sees as inadequacies.
Coupled with the fact that she doesn’t have her best friend to lean on anymore and share the woes of being the only two girls in the class, her other best friend, Henry, has become best friends with the class bully, Webby. She also has to deal with Gilbert, a boy who is nice enough to her, but only because he likes her and wants to kiss her. Her relationships with the other boys in her class, as well as with her brothers and her parents, are all predictably irritating for her. It all goes to show that no one can truly understand the plight of a fifth grade girl besides that fifth grade girl herself. Sometimes even she can’t understand what’s happening to her, and no one ever seems to be around to shed light on it.
As the novel progresses, she makes discoveries about herself and about her town and life in general. The story is sweetly written in the form of letters to her best friend, Bess, who has moved away. Even though we only hear Bess’ responses through Claire’s relating them back to Bess in her own letters, we get a sense that their friendship has survived their separation.
Both the young and young-at-heart will enjoy this story about trying to hold it together in the face of adversity. Readers will find themselves rooting for Claire and hoping that things work out in her favor, even though that doesn’t happen all of the time.
You can find ‘The Only Girl in School’ by Natalie Standiford here.
*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*