Wednesday, June 09, 2021

It All Begins with Jelly Beans

Weetman, Nova. It All Begins with Jelly Beans
June 8th 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Meg and Riley meet in the school  nurse's office. Riley has had trouble managing her diabetes, and Meg has problems managing her life. For good reason: ever since her father's death, her mother has been increasingly dysfunctional. It's gotten to the point where she doesn't have a job, lets Meg shop for groceries with the public assistance money, and lets her go to school wearing bedroom slippers and the same t shirt every day because she has grown out of her clothes. Meg has lost her best friend, Eleonora, because of her difficulties. The students at her school near Sydney aren't nice about this, calling her slipper girl and making fun of the fact that she frequently needs a paper bag to help with her breathing during anxiety attacks. The worst harasser is Lina, who is also Riley's best friend. Well, not a good friend, but Riley's best option in surviving her own middle school experience. If Lina is talking to her, she can't be talking about her. Lina is particularly unhelpful in Riley's attempts at managing her diabetes, making fun of her for having to test her blood, watch what she eats, and limit her activities according to her mother's parameters. Lina's input frequently ends poorly for Riley. Meg is a soothing presence, and Riley starts to enjoy seeing her in the nurse's office, and starts to stand up for her. Meg also has an ally in her Aunt Peggy, who runs a laundromat nearby and tries to help Meg out as much as she can. Will the two girls be able to get the help they need to manage their situations and make their way through middle school?
Strengths: At least one student every year. That's how prevalent juvenile diabetes is, yet books about students who struggle with this condition are few and far between. Belford's Another D for DeeDeeYohalem's The Truth According to Blue and Tubb's Zeus: Dog of Chaos are the only books that I can think of that address this issue that is far more prevalent than the death of an immediate family member. Riley's struggles are so typical-- she wants to eat what her friends eat. She wants to be able to go swimming, take off her glucose monitor, and not have to text her mother every five minutes. She has to carry jelly beans with her in case her blood sugar drops, and getting everything in balance is tough. I liked that she was also struggling with her friend group. Meg's story makes Riley's concerns seem somewhat less crucial, and it's good to see Riley trying to help her out. There are a few things in the book that identify this as being an Australian title, but the stories are universal. 
Weaknesses: It seemed odd that Meg would be allowed to wear slippers to school every day without question, and while the nurse made an effort to feed her, no one seemed to contact home or make an effort to help her with clothing. 
What I really think: I wish that Meg's situation was handled differently by the school and people around her, but this book is an excellent description of a middle school student struggling with diabetes, so I will purchase it. 

My school is very fortunate-- while about a third of our students are economically disadvantaged, there is a strong support system, and the PTO provides toiletries, school supplies, back packs, etc. for any student in need. During the pandemic, lots of students go to the cafeteria on Friday afternoon and take food home, and I've not heard so far of anyone giving people a hard time about this. Certainly, students making fun of a student like Meg would not be tolerated. Even as the librarian, I take a LOT of students to the office for supplies, and am in contact with the guidance counselors about students who seem to be struggling with all manner of issues. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you have a really nice, supportive school!