By Wendelin Van Draanen
Alfred A. Knopf, 2001
Flipped is a young adult novel of indeterminate genre, although it is perhaps most often referred to as a "teen romantic comedy". Despite this, it is fairly great.
The narrative alternates between Bryce Loski, a young boy who wants nothing to do with girls, especially his new neighbor, Juli, and a young girl, Juli Baker, who is somewhat obsessed with her next door neighbor, Bryce. The story starts when they first meet in second grade, and follows them through eighth grade. During this time they hardly speak, despite living across the street from each other and spending a whole lot of time thinking about each other. They alternate between liking each other, hating each other, and just generally being puzzled by the other's actions. They are both interesting people with interesting families, and the alternating views of exactly the same event are quite engaging.
As the characters are slightly larger-than-life kids who are slowly-sort-of becoming romantically involved, this reminded me a bit of a John Green novel for fifth graders (a good thing). Despite the constant theme of one of the main characters being obsessed with the other, this is not really a romance story -- in part because it is written for tweens/teens, and in part because there are plenty of other things going on, from family problems to school problems to minor teenage crises. The story comes very close to being a comedy, and very close to being a coming-of-age novel, but doesn't make the error of falling into any pigeon holes.
Flipped has received fairly universal good reviews, and is still popular after a decade on the shelf. I don't think it quite has what it takes to be a classic, but it is a great book nonetheless. It uses a clever narrative form, and it's well-written and continuously engaging. It doesn't hurt that it has some themes that make it popular with parents and teachers -- good psycho-social development in the main characters, mild class differences explored, a character with an intellectual disability (Juli's uncle), teenagers that work hard and do well while still being teenagers... And, oddly, children seeing that sometimes their parents and teachers are quite a bit less than perfect. I would recommend this novel for any young teenager and anyone that likes YA novels as a general class.
In 2010 Flipped was made into a "romantic comedy drama" film. I have not seen it, but it also got good reviews.
AR reading level: 4.8