Still a Work in Progress

Still a Work in Progress

by Jo Knowles


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In a return to middle-grade fiction, master of perspectives Jo Knowles depicts a younger sibling struggling to maintain his everyday life when his older sister is in crisis.

Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade. The girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him. Not to mention that his older sister, Emma, has been acting pretty strange, even though Noah thought she’d been doing better ever since the Thing They Don’t Talk About. The only place he really feels at peace is in art class, with a block of clay in his hands. As it becomes clear through Emma’s ever-stricter food rules and regulations that she’s not really doing better at all, the normal seventh-grade year Noah was hoping for begins to seem pretty unattainable. In an affecting and realistic novel with bright spots of humor, Jo Knowles captures the complexities of navigating middle school while feeling helpless in the face of a family crisis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781536207378
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/15/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 605,935
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Jo Knowles is the author of Read Between the Lines and See You at Harry’s as well as several other acclaimed young adult novels. She lives in Vermont with her family.

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Still a Work in Progress 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Dan_Ross More than 1 year ago
I was privileged to read an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this book, and I'm acquainted with Jo Knowles. Frankly, none of this disclosure holds any special meaning at all, because "Still A Work In Progress" is an extraordinary glimpse into the minds, the lives, and the very existence of middle schoolers whether I like it or not. Jo Knowles knows kids. She knows their likes, their loves, their terrors, and their simple irritations. She knows how parents are sometimes left dumbfounded by events that overtake them, that all families matter but all families are not, in fact, created equal. In her new book, main character Noah tries to navigate 8th grade in much the same way an alien would navigate Times Square, sometimes lost, sometimes befuddled. Middle school is confusing in all respects except when he's in art class, where he excels. Girls are weird but strangely compelling, and schoolmates are sometimes nuttier'n a junkyard dog. Well meaning, of course, but made crazy by–what else?–girls. Without spoiling anything, it's safe to say Noah's older sister, Emma, is hobbled by a recurrent problem that embroils the entire family. It's during this time that Noah realizes how important his sister is to him, and how unimportant are the other distractions in his world. What is perhaps most engaging in this story is the compassion Jo exhibits through her characters. The strengths are paradoxical: Noah is strong, his father is weak (as a dad myownself, I was frankly dismayed by Noah's dad's behavior. Don't judge me.), and mom is somewhere in the middle. Noah is a success, generally, and his sister is a failure at controlling her debilitating, self-imposed problem. Some of Noah's classmates are mature in relationships; some of his teachers in the small school are friends; and there is a hairless cat mascot roaming around as if it owns the place, because, evidently, it does. There is laugh-out-loud humor, and watery-eyed pathos. There are kids each of us went to middle school with, and some we wish we had. The story is less a book than a time machine, and one size fits all. I have high confidence that middle schoolers will read this story with recognition–as adults will, too. If "Still A Work In Progress" fairly represents the state of middle school today, it hasn't changed much since I was in 8th grade. That makes for a compelling, page-turning story of extraordinary and universal meaning for everyone.
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
Navigating middle school is difficult enough, and Noah is doing his best despite the fact that his sister Emma is struggling with a health issue that threatens to derail his entire family. His days are filled with typical 7th grade hormonal and emotional disasters. His best friend is involved with a girl complete with holding hands and kissing with tongue. There's the first dance jitters to contend with. Should he ask a girl to dance or sit safely on the sidelines? Each day ends with an often uncomfortable carpool ride that takes him home to homework and chores. Noah's small school has its perks. Classes are small and most of the kids have been together forever. Teachers take the time to get to know their students and offer positive support whenever necessary. There's even a school cat - a hairless feline who wanders the halls and classrooms wearing jaunty little vests to keep his rather creepy little figure toasty and warm. Along with the perks come decided disadvantages. Everyone knows everyone else's business, and when Noah's sister relapses, the real stress begins. Talkative friends become suddenly silent, and teachers become nosey question askers. As Noah's feelings of guilt and anger increase, all he wants is to be left alone. Author Jo Knowles takes on the task of illustrating how an eating disorder effects a family. Noah and his parents completely change their lives to accommodate Emma as she tries to deal with her illness, but despite carefully expressed feelings and craftily prepared meals, she reverts to old habits and ends up back in rehab. Noah misses her and must learn that life goes on even though he hears his parents crying and arguing nightly as he tries to come to terms with his own role in the family's situation. I don't mean to make this book sound like a depressing, downer of a read. It is filled with warmth and humor that will have readers smiling, chuckling, and sighing pleasantly time and time again. Knowles's middle grade humor matches that of authors Jordan Sonnenblick, David Lubar, and Brent Crawford, making it a sure winner with boys as well as girls. There has been recent criticism of books written for middle grade readers involving topics such as heroine addiction, gender issues, and autism. Some argue that these are topics that should not be introduced in fiction for readers of this age. I completely disagree! Books like STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS can provide just what kids need to better understand what may be going on in their own lives or the lives of someone close to them. We need this kind of diversity in children's and adolescent literature now more than ever.