HOW WE ROLL: A Novel of Identity and Friendship

Lynn: On the first day of high school in a new town, with a chance to make a new life, Quinn looks at the two wigs on her bureau. Should she be Guinevere or Sasha? It’s been 408 days since she lost all her hair to an autoimmune disorder, during which time her eighth-grade friends drifted away and a horrible incident during a party game turned her life to misery for a spell. Now she wants to fit in, be normal, and stay under the radar.

How We Roll by Natasha Friend

Opportunity knocked when her parents moved so Quinn’s autistic, nine-year-old brother Julius could attend a new school. Quinn tries to manage her own problems rather than worry her already overloaded parents.

She picks the strawberry blond Guinevere wig. Somehow, it works. Not only does the wig tape stick, but Quinn makes great new friends and even starts to understand the Massachusetts accent. She meets a handsome, angry boy in a wheelchair. She grapples with gnawing fear. What if her new friends find out about her baldness? Is it possible to ever be honest about herself?

How We Roll is a lovely and affirming heart-warmer. Vivid, sympathetic characters propel a story about identity, friendship, forgiveness, and trust. Friend paints a picture of the stresses and strains on a family with a disabled child and how that disability impacts other siblings. Above all, Quinn’s wry voice shines.

Cindy: I became a fan of Natasha Friend‘s writing after reading Bounce (2007). Friend’s characters and dialogue feel authentic, and her writing reminds me of Jenny Han’s, with characters working through challenges and navigating relationships.

How We Roll follows suit. Shifting friendship alliances are notorious in middle school, made all the more painful as popularity and boys enter the mix. “Suddenly she was Pluto: a has-been planet, too dwarf-like and unimportant to hang with the other celestial bodies,” Friend writes.

Quinn stoically endures name-calling and reputation damage when a boy emerges from a round of “7 Minutes in Heaven” with her and announces a derogatory lie made all the more painful because it involves her alopecia. Nothing happened during their session at the party, but her reputation suffers just the same. More enjoyable is the developing friendship between Quinn and Nick as she tries to help him move past his anger at the older brother responsible for his leg injuries.

And Quinn gets around! I spotted her skater profile on the cover of How We Roll on the cover of David Levithan’s Someday (Oct. 2018), the sequel to Everyday (2012). I know that I’m eager to skate into that new book!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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