For some reason, the board game (Scrabble) keeps popping into my life in weird ways.  Most recently in two cases: as a clue in an adventure game I brought my daughter to for her birthday, and also in my latest book.  The book You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly was a quick read and a perfectly crafted story.

The two main characters, Ben and Charlotte, are opponents in an online Scrabble game.  They never meet, and their only contact is their game play and occasional short phone conversations.  Their stories are told in parallel format.  Both are dealing with tough life situations.  Charlotte is coping with her father being in the hospital after a heart surgery, while also being ditched by her lifelong friend Bridget.  Ben’s parents are divorcing, which prompts him to start his sixth grade year by going for student office.  Through this, he has no friends to support him and is bullied.

It drove me a bit crazy that they never shared their problems with each other.  Yet, somehow I think it’s a realistic depiction of this age group.  Their relationship is based on challenging each other through their gaming, but also to be the best version of themselves with one another.  That point of contact gave them someone to reach out to who was removed from their personal drama.

My favorite part of this book is the characters.  I love their quirkiness.   Each of Charlotte’s sections starts with a “Rabbit Hole.”  Her dad often used this saying to describe when she would get caught up in a topic.  She shares many random facts in this way.  She is strong and smart.  Ben is my favorite.  He has this odd way about him, but it is endearing to me.  I enjoy his way of thinking, talking and reacting to others.  When he gets ketchup smeared on him by a bully, he goes to the office to get a shirt.  He asks for a medium even though he is a small kid.  “Ben carried his shirt to the boys’ bathroom knowing the medium would be too big.  But it’s not often that you’re given a choice of what you want to be, and Ben decided he didn’t want to be small” (152).

This story made me smile, get a bit misty eyed and is one I won’t forget.  Triple word score.




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