by James Howe
Addie Carle, activist extraordinaire, wakes worrying about states of matters: the state of the world, the state of middle school, the state of her relationship, the state of her friends. Her voice is too loud for most people. Her clothes are too blah for others. And she tries her hardest to ignore whispers asking why he is going out with her. But Addie has a rich internal mind, and she just can’t help caring about the world.
“I worry about/injustice and/ how to make the world/ a better place,/ because I contend/ that if you are not part/ of the solution,/ you are part/ of the problem./” she says in the second poem of this novel-in-verse. “I worry how in the world/ the world will ever be okay. Then/I turn off my alarm/ and get on with the day” (p. 7, 9).
Addie wears duct tape over her mouth on her school’s first (unapproved) day of silence. She responds emotionally to terrible news articles she reads, and isn’t afraid to say it aloud in class. People don’t always understand her, and this book is rife with Addie’s internal turmoil about how own actions and thoughts and their discrepancy with others’.
With Addie, James Howe brings back one of his characters from anti-bullying groundbreaker The Misfits, offering a very personal look at a socially conscious middle school girl. Recommended for middle schools (I probably won’t get this for my K-5), Addie On the Inside will appeal to students for its spot-on views of social dynamics, a respectful look at a middle school relationship, and a portrayal of Addie’s need to both fit in and find her own way. Addie is hard not to like, although middle school students will also understand how others don’t “get” her. Novels in verse are also a great choice for those who want light reading, but who are ready for real substance.
Questions for students-
How would Addie fit in in your school? How would people react to the things she says? What are some words you would use to describe her?
Do you think Addie approaches social change in a positive way? What happens when she does or says something (like criticizing the abusive star , or creating a Gay Straight Alliance)? How do her methods for approaching social change work or not work? What are the best ways to create social change, and to be a champion at your school?
How does a novel written in poetry give us a different experience than a novel written in prose? Is it more personal? Easier to read? Harder? How could you go about writing your own novel in verse?