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by Becky Laney

Gordon, Amy. 2004. THE SECRET LIFE OF A BOARDING SCHOOL BRAT. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 0823417794.

Lydia Rice is a seventh grader struggling with many issues: her mother and father are divorced--so she's sent back and forth between them to attend school and for all holidays AND her father has recently remarried--and so she is having trouble adjusting to her new stepmom AND her grandmother has recently died AND she has been sent to a boarding school--Florence T. Pocket Boarding School--where she is having trouble focusing on her schoolwork (she hates the work and the teachers) and making friends. To cope with her grief and her struggles, Lydia is beginning off the new year--1965--by starting to write in a diary which her grandmother had given her several years before. The book chronicles her life January through May 1965. This is an instrumental time for her as she begins to make friends, find her own identity and "place" where she fits in. One of her friends is Howie, a maintenance man/janitor for the school. When Howie catches her out of the dorm in the middle of the night--instead of turning her in--he decides that she is just the kind of apprentice he needs--he's a "silly wizard." The two become close friends. He gives her a mysterious assignment/puzzle to solve: figure out who the girls in the school's mural are. During the course of the assignment, she begins to figure out who she is--her true, authentic self--and how to be a friend. Overall, I liked this book. I thought the characters were developed throughout the novel--as Lydia begins to really get to know people--then the characters become more well-rounded. They stop being "the bully" or "the shy one" or whatever. In her diary, she not only is recounting the present--she's sharing memories of her past. She shares about the difficulty of having divorced parents--spending one holiday here and another holiday there--and of having to celebrate Christmas twice because no parent wants to be left out--and she shares memories of her grandma. She really uses the diary as a way to cope with all the changes going on in her life. I thought the novel was well written.

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