Books: Flipped

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen is one of my favorite light read novels.

The two main characters are Bryce Loski and Juli Baker. Starting from second grade, they become neighbors and together they undergo a series of events that continuously clashes their lives together. Each chapter is a flipped version of the two character’s minds, creating a more complete and interesting story told by the voices of two very opposite children. Together they experience changes in school, family, and love through a slow process of growing up. It’s a sweet story of a first love with some simple life lessons thrown in. There was a movie adaptation in 2010, but as usual the movie did not do the book justice.

There are many aspects of Flipped that makes me go back and reread it.

Juli’s applications of “A painting is more than a sum of its parts”.

Juli falls in love at first sight with Bryce because she loved his brilliant blue eyes and his cute smile and polo shirt. Bryce, however, has an opposite reaction to Juli. He thinks she is annoying and doesn’t like the way she sticks to him. Their first years of living across from each other do not make a mutually happy friendship. Bryce commits a number of hurtful things to Juli due to pressures from his dad and friends, but mostly due to his own cowardliness. Although at first disillusioned, Juli manages to look past Bryce’s attractive appearance and finds that he is much lesser than the sum of his parts.

Then there was Bryce – the most disturbing of all because I had to admit that I didn’t really know him, either… Looking across the table, all I got was a strange, detached, neutral feeling. No fireworks, no leftover anger or resurging flutters. Nothing.

Bryce’s family vs. Juli’s family.

Bryce’s family is a model, American-dream type of family. We have the business man father, a housewife mother, an older sister, a nice green lawn with a white picket fence and a nice-looking house with a lot of nice furniture inside. Juli’s house is deemed as the “scourge of the neighborhood” with rock-band twin brothers, an artist father who drives an old pick-up truck, a housewife mother, a stray dog and chickens living in the backyard. It is interesting how the outer appearances of their families contrast to the real family dynamics behind closed doors. After a joint family dinner, Bryce is able to open his eyes to his parents’ fighting relationship and his father’s arrogant personality and offensive attitude. Although financially suffering, Juli’s family shows a strong love and togetherness between all family members.

I thought about how my dad had always looked down on the Bakers. How he’d put down their house and their yard and their cars and what they did for a living. How he’d called them trash and made fun of Mr. Baker’s paintings.

And now I was seeing that there was something really cool about that family. All of them. They were just… real.

And who were we? There was something spinning wickedly out of control inside this house. It was like seeing inside the Bakers’ world had opened up windows into our own, and the view was not a pretty one.

Where had all this stuff come from?

And why hadn’t I seen it before.

Juli’s sycamore tree.

Juli is in love with the giant sycamore tree at the end of the street. She climbs high up and sits on the branches, experiencing a feeling of magic. This is the place where she quietly develops her thoughts. The cutting down of the sycamore tree signified the day she stopped looking at the world through the eyes of a child and instead, through the eyes of a mature young adult.

“To be held above the earth and be brushed by the wind,” she said, “it’s like your heart has been kissed by beauty.”

Bryce’s sarcastic type of humor.

The way he explains things is funny in a boyish way. You find yourself understanding, agreeing, or sympathizing with him.

You’d think mothers would say, Hey, there’s no way you’re going to auction my son off to the highest bidder, but no. Instead, they’re all flattered that their son’s been elected a basket boy.

Yes, my friend, that’s what they call you… Pretty soon you’ve completely lost your name. You and nineteen other saps are known simply as Basket Boy.

You grow up with them.

Yup, Flipped is the perfect name for the book. Perspectives flip, feelings flip, and relationships flip, attitudes, choices… almost everything, really. It’s really great how the two characters change over time and it feels like you’re with them every step as they grow up. You can also tell by the choice of words or the sentence structure that they begin to have more developed thoughts or values. I also love how there are so many parallels within the book. You can draw a lot of contrasts from the different relationships and perspectives from a pool of amusing characters.

“Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss…but every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”

Sincerely,

Loewe

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