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Fighting Words Hardcover – Import, 11 August 2020
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★ "Believable and immensely appealing, Suki, Francine, and especially Della light up [the] story . . . Readers will root for these sisters along every step of their daunting journey. Refusing to soft-pedal hard issues, the novel speaks with an astringent honesty, at once heartbreaking and hopeful.” —Kirkus (starred review)
★ Perfectly balances pathos and humor [while] also showcasing the astonishing strength and resilience of children to confront, and eventually heal from, trauma and sexual abuse. . . . Unforgettable.” —The Horn Book (starred review)
★ “Always an engaging and smooth writer, Bradley here unfurls a tale that initially recalls Paterson’s classic Great Gilly Hopkins but then adds layers of complexity . . . It’s a sensitive exploration of the way people can suffer in different ways and need different things, and characterization is deft and vivid . . . Stirring . . . Satisfying . . . Rewarding.” —BCCB (starred review)
★ “Despite the horrors the sisters have endured, there is humor and warmth in this multifaceted, brave novel. Bradley creates fully developed, believable characters that readers will root for. . . . Raw and honest, this ultimately empowering novel is an important book for readers of all ages.” —SLJ (starred review)
★ “This story, no PSA, is an honest slice of a difficult life—unvarnished, painful, and raw, [and] Della is a powerhouse of a protagonist . . . Prepare to read furiously.” —Booklist (starred review)
★ “Della’s tough, straightforward narration pulls no punches as she learns the power of using her ‘big mouth’ and inspires others to tell their stories when and how they are able. Sharp characterizations by Newbery Honoree Brubaker Bradley create an essential, powerful mirror and window for any reader.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
★ “Bradley handles these tough subjects in ways that are enlightening, empowering and—yes—uplifting . . . Fighting Words is a story readers will draw strength from, and Della is a heroine they’ll be unlikely to forget.” —BookPage
“Gripping. Life-changing. Essential. Fighting Words is a testament to the power we have when we stand up, speak up, and stick together. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s talent is extraordinary. I am awe-struck.” —Donna Gephart, award-winning author of Lily and Dunkin
“One of the best books I've ever read. It will go down as one of the best books, one of the most important books, ever written for kids.” —Colby Sharp of Nerdy Book Club
"The remarkable thing about this book is how infinitely enjoyable it is, in spite of some of the terrible and terrifying content. I picked it up and simply found myself unable to put it down. The VOICE on its 10-year-old narrator Della is one for the history books. One of the best of the year." —Betsy Bird for A Fuse #8 Production/SLJ
“Fighting Words extend[s] the legacy of [Laurie Halse Anderson's] Speak [and] meets the criteria of great children’s literature that manages to resonate with adults too. [Readers] will learn about mental health, poverty, addiction, the foster-care system, the importance of consent, and, finally, the importance of destigmatizing these all-too-common stories. The importance and value of speaking." —Bitch Media
“Rather than shielding her readers, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley arms them with Fighting Words, a compassionate, truthful, and beautiful story about the trauma of sexual abuse and the remarkable power of sisterhood.” —Elana K. Arnold, Printz Honor-winning author of Damsel
“I am blown away. This is a powerful, necessary book about a difficult subject, written with honesty, tenderness, and consummate craft. Della’s story will burrow deep into your heart. Fighting Words may be Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s best work yet.” —Barbara Dee, award-winning author of Maybe He Just Likes You
“I wish all children were lucky enough that the first time they encountered dark and difficult things, it was not through a swift and sudden rift in their real lives, but within the safe pages of a story. This beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful book is a place where readers can build strength and resilience, page by page, with the gift of opening, closing, and discussing in their own time and at their own pace. And for those who have, till now, felt alone in their hurtful past, this is a book that lets them know they have never been alone. And never will be.” —Kat Yeh, award-winning author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie
“Absolutely magnificent. The voice on this girl—I cannot get Della out of my head or my heart. Fighting Words is raw, it is real, it is necessary, a must-read for children and their adults—a total triumph in all ways.” —Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s
About the Author
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- Publisher : Dial Books (11 August 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1984815687
- ISBN-13 : 978-1984815682
- Reading age : 10 - 12 years
- Item Weight : 386 g
- Dimensions : 14.61 x 2.41 x 21.74 cm
- Country of Origin : USA
- Best Sellers Rank: #535,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
“Sometimes you’ve got a story you need to find the courage to tell.”
Welcome to the unforgettable story of Della, a ten-year-old girl, and her sixteen-year-old sister Suki. You should know up front that this is not a blissful tale of childhood. It’s raw and real and explores the gritty reality of children who are forgotten, mistreated and abused. While this is considered a middle grade novel, it will not be appropriate for all children of that age.
The beginning of the novel finds these inseparable sisters in foster care. Their mother was incarcerated years before after blowing up a motel room while cooking meth. Since then, they have been in the custody of their mother’s boyfriend, Clifton. As the story unfolds, we learn that the girls have largely been raising themselves while Clifton spends most of the week working as a long-haul truck driver. It’s what he does to Suki when he is home – and what he tries to do to Della – that land the children in the care of the very no-nonsense and plainspoken foster mother Francine and preparing to testify in Clifton’s trial. Within the safety and shelter of Francine’s home, they begin processing the trauma they’ve endured, and they soon discover the power of seeking help and speaking up even when they fear no one is listening.
Not every middle grade student is going to be ready for this book. As an adult, I’m not sure I was ready for this book. It addresses the very real trauma of childhood sexual abuse. In fact, there will be many parents who will be angered that this book is marketed to middle grade. As a parent, I sympathize. I would not have had my children read this book as middle graders. However – and I can’t stress this strongly enough – there are young readers out there who need this book.
At one point in the novel, Della is told that there are children who have never experienced hunger or poverty or abuse or addiction or homelessness. She is staggered by this realization and simply can’t imagine a life so privileged. This was eye-opening for me, and it was at this point that I understood why I wouldn’t have handed this book to my kids. Because it wasn’t written for them. I wanted to protect them from the horror of that kind of knowledge – and I still would. But the fact is that some kids – many kids – simply don’t have that luxury. These children need to know they are not alone. They need a character who is like them, and they need to see her hurt and cry and be brave and strong. They need to see her heartbreak and her laughter and her tears and her hope. Della is that character, and this is that book.
This is a middle grade book about two young girls living with the aftermath of sexual abuse. It’s not an easy read – and with this subject matter, it shouldn’t be.
I love Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s middle grade novels. I felt that this one was written with a great deal of sensitivity and with age-appropriate treatment of truly difficult topics. I would not recommend that parents hand it to children without first pre-reading it. At the same time, I hope with all my heart that it finds its way to those hurting readers who need it.
Let me say right away this book is hard in the same way life is hard. It is also lovely in the same way life is lovely. It is well balanced and left me with very positive feelings. It is not schmaltzy. Ever. There will be people who want to keep this book out of the hands of the very readers who need it the most. This would be a travesty not only to children, but to humanity. This is an important book. It is time.
The author weaves this story in a way that doesn’t flinch from the truth, yet it is done so gracefully that the light the reader follows is bright and full of hope. The child characters view their world through a clear and practical lens, and as is true in life, they often see things with more depth and clarity than the adults around them.
Della and her sister Suki are tied to each other with a metaphorical rope that often burns, yet always binds them to each other. In the beginning of the story it is clear their emotional growth has been stunted by the life they have just escaped. They are in constant survival mode and believe it is always a mistake to trust the adults in charge. They bounce off each other, protect each other, suffer for each other, and constantly encourage each other. Suki, who has cared for Della since she herself was six years old, keeps her sister focussed on the future when Suki will be old enough to get a job and an apartment. When it will be just the two of them. No foster parents, no fake stepparents, no case workers, no friends who tell their secrets — just the two of them.
The girls love each other and stand tall and strong against the world when united. But it isn’t until they are temporarily separated that they both begin to grow as individuals and to accept that what happened to them is not their fault. This is a message that can never be conveyed strongly enough to children and it is handled well in this story, by the characters coming to this realization organically.
The adult character’s are also well done with individual personalities that do not take over the story. They are flawed, as we all are, which helps the reader never feel preached-to. Again, no schmaltz, but as an adult who has been impacted by this issue, I really appreciated the care in which the author developed the adults in the room.
Francine, the new foster mom, is perfectly imperfect. She is not the stereotypical sugary foster-mom (nor the evil stepmother-type). At first I was curious about what I perceived to be her lack of warmth toward the girls. She is very cautious about alluding to anything that might give them unrealistic expectations. She also does not challenge the bond between them. Rather, she lets them peel the onion that is “them” one papery-thin layer at a time, giving the girls space to come to their own conclusions while providing a safe, predictable home for them to heal. As it should be.
There is a tormenting boy character named Trevor who clearly has issues going on in his life that make him act out inappropriately to the girls in the class at school. But when Della realizes she has the power — and the right — to tell people they are not allowed to touch her without permission, she communicates this clearly and confidently to Trevor. This moment made me literally fly up from my chair and cheer.
Della reveals her story layer by layer and prepares the reader when things are about to get ugly. The author has done a brilliant job of only using words that matter, so when the truth of what happened is exposed, it is done in a sparse but honest way, which allows for the surrounding beauty to hold us up. When I got to the last twenty or so pages, I put the book aside for a day because I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish, I felt both more hopeful and more powerful.
This is an important topic that needs to be discussed openly and I am grateful to the author for leading the way with this hard-to-put-down book. There is much to be said and the conversation should start right now. Here, I’ll go first: &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
What happened to fictional Della, happens to real girls every day. This is the first children’s (middle grade) novel that I have read that dares to explore this topic. It is not right for every young reader, but I believe there are many who need this exact book.