Every Little Thing In The World by Nina de Gramont. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division. 2010. Library copy.
The Plot: Sydney Biggs, sixteen, is a good girl. That’s what she tells herself. She also tells herself that her mother is over-reacting about Sydney and her friend Natalia “borrowing” Natalia’s parents’ car to go to a party, despite both girls being grounded. And there was the time she pretended to be at Natalia’s and stayed overnight at her ex-boyfriend’s. And her mother’s reaction to Sydney’s grades slipping is a bit over the top. What else is Mom over-reacting about? Sydney quitting the swimming team. And sneaking away to spend a weekend with Natalia, Natalia’s boyfriend, and Sydney’s kind-of boyfriend.
Sydney’s divorced parents are disappointed and angry, and that’s why Syd now finds herself spending a month at Camp Bell Wilderness Adventure, canoeing in the wilderness.
Actually, Sydney doesn’t mind. A month away from her parents? A month away from the not-quite boyfriend? A month to not have to think about anything?
A month to not have to think about being pregnant?
If her parents are unhappy with staying out late, drinking, and lying, imagine how they’d feel if they found out she’s pregnant.
The Good: Every Little Thing In The World is a sensitive, thoughtful look at young teen facing a difficult decision. What should she do about her pregnancy? For Sydney, going away to Camp Bell is the perfect escape, rather than the punishment her mother thought it would be. Things get more complicated than she wants when her best friend, Natalia, comes along. Yes, Natalia is her best friend; but Natalia has her own issues and secrets to work through. Syd knows that any help or advice Natalia offers is based on Natalia’s own hopes and fears, rather than what Sydney wants or needs.
Sydney comes from a complicated place, and one of the things I adored about this book is none of those complications were fixed. Her life is messy, and it remained messy. Her mother, hurt by her divorce and struggling to make ends meet, is not as warm or open as she once was. Her father is so tied up in living the “perfect” life with his new family that he doesn’t see the damage he inflicts on those around him. Syd’s the poor girl at a rich private school, and Sydney is well aware that she is the only one at her school who doesn’t have nice clothes or endless spending money. The reader realizes well before Sydney that Sydney’s problem is not a pregnancy: it’s being too passive in her own life from fear of disappointing those around her. She had sex with someone without using a condom, because she was afraid of what he’d think of her for asking. She’s content for Natalia to always be the star, and to get the boys Natalia isn’t interested in.
Camp Bell becomes a place where Sydney can assert herself; not just in what will happen to her body and this pregnancy, but also in her own future, in creating new patterns and ways of being.
I have one mini-rant. I truly despised Syd’s father. Okay, maybe despise is to big a word. When Sydney was young, he became obsessed with eating healthier. The obsession grew and mutated into other areas, such as a conviction that oil will soon run out resulting in the culture crumbling. Sydney, a young teen when she first heard this, had such bad nightmares that visitation was temporarily ended.
Sydney, musing on her stepmother and mother: “Kerry still spent half the day doing what my mother had gotten divorced to avoid: making elaborate, organic meals from scratch. They were never ready when my father walked through the door, and he always heaved a sigh of disappointment at the the world’s inability to measure up to his high ideals.” Kerry, who before her three children in three years had been a trim athlete, now weighs almost two hundred pounds, a form of rebellion against her husband’s “high ideals.” Is her father realistic? Yes. I still wanted Kerry to pick up her kids and leave, to do something about her youngest’s permanent diaper rash, or to at least stop hiding her secret stash of “forbidden” food.
Let’s add this on a positive note. The canoeing group involves eight teens (four girls, four boys) and two counselors. I love the relationships that develop between Syd and her fellow campers. Yes, there is a cute boy who Sydney likes and who likes Sydney. Sydney’s growth isn’t just internal; it’s shown in how she interacts with others. And that cover? That is Sydney by the end of the book: strong and confident, becoming her own person.
Other Reviews: Stacked; Steph Su Reads.