I’ve been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately. Part of it is due to reading this; and what surprises me is once you start looking for authenticity and its root, vulnerability, you see it everywhere. What you also see are the walls, suits of armor, and other shields our culture teaches a person to use to hide, protect, and deny this most human of all qualities. Imagine how thrilled I was when, just a few pages into National Book Award Nominee Lisa Graff‘s forthcoming Absolutely Almost, I realized that I was holding a book deeply interwoven with vulnerability and authenticity. And my excitement was not disappointed in the least.
5th grader Albie has always been “almost”. Emails and letters home from school are full of words he has a hard time trying to understand: “potential, struggling, achievement gap.” He notices that while he tries, he’s always a little bit slower, just a little bit behind, and almost, always “almost”, no matter what it is. People, social situations, and school – mostly math and reading – it’s all so challenging and Albie doesn’t understand why or how to fix it. Starting a new school this year, Albie feels “if somebody told me what the rules were, I’d be fine” (32) but of course, that’s not the way life works and Albie has to figure it all out on his own. He does have help though, in his quirky, cool “not-babysitter” Calista, his best friend Erlan, new friend Betsy, and his Math teacher, Mr. Clifton. Despite his struggles, one day at a time Albie doggedly faces life’s challenges – sometimes frustrated, sometimes confused – often questioning who he is, why he is where he is, and wondering if trying hard is really ever going to matter. And wouldn’t you know it, one day at a time, owning his story, being who he is, and trusting his own inner voice helps Albie realize that “you can’t get where you’re going without being where you’ve been” (84).
Subtle, graceful, and wise beyond its seemingly straightforward style, Absolutely Almost is one of those books whose insight and humor, honesty and humanity, and strength and vulnerability will have an impact on anyone fortunate enough to get to know Albie.
- Posted by Cori