I’m always looking for good Young Adult books for my kids to read. One of the main criteria for me when screening books, is that the theme engenders tolerance of others’ differences. Multicultural is my middle name, but multicultural is not just East versus West, or one religion or another. Multicultural is the weave of uniqueness each person has in the fabric of the cloth they are cut from. Young adults are at an impressionable age where they are waking up to the beauty of others’ patterns, and good Young Adult books open kids’ minds more than any adult lectures (“God forbid my parents should talk to me!”) will ever do. So B. It is one of those books.
So B. It, by Sarah Weeks is a lovely story of a 12 year old girl’s search for her identity. Not unlike many preteens, Heidi has gotten to the age where she looks around her family, and then out into the world, to define who she is, and who she will become. But Heidi’s obstacles to finding out where she and her family come from are higher and take more stamina to climb. Heidi lives with her mother who is severely mentally disabled, incapable of caring for herself, much less Heidi. Their neighbor, a nurturing recluse, has taken them both under her wing, and raised both Heidi and her mother as her own.
The only story Heidi knows about her origins is the one that Bernie has told her about the day that one week old Heidi and her mother showed up on her doorstep needing help. Because Heidi’s mother can speak only a few words, Bernie knows nothing about how the two arrived there, and that Heidi’s mother calls herself So B. It. Heidi grows up within this tiny, isolated world, slowing becoming aware of the differences between hers and the outside world.
As Heidi sets her mind to exploring her past, in hopes of understanding what her future holds, she meets people along the way who change her forever. In exploring the uniqueness of everyone she meets in the world around her, she comes to appreciate their special qualities, and to come to terms with the beauty of the love she and her unusual family share. She learns that there are some things that cannot be discovered about the people that we love, but love does not need to be discovered. It just is.
I was so touched by this book that I immediately talked to my middle school boys about reading it. Heidi goes through the same kind of search for herself that they, and most of their friends, are going through right now. How do I fit in with my friends? Do I need to hide my weird parents so they don’t embarrass me? How can I become my own person…because I sure don’t want to be like them!
Whether a young reader is cut from the cloth within a family with a mentally disabled member, a family with one weird Indian parent or an even more embarrassing parent who raps and dances in front of their friends, or a family with its own variety of quirks, this book will fill their hearts and broaden their minds. And it’s not a bad read for the parents, either.