If This Were a Story looks at anxiety within a modern setting. Perhaps the issues are too easily solved by the end of the book, but it is an over good first novel for the 8 to 10 crowd.
Hannah is a pre-junior high student trying to deal with issues even the adults do not always understand: bullies, fighting parents, friends growing apart and school work. Her way of coping is to ignore much of what is going on, keeping her head down, not talking to the school counselor and worrying internally. The only friend who does seem to understand her is Ambrose, her stuffed elephant. Who has just “come alive” and who might never forget (just like Hannah) but does not have the answers (just like Hannah). Or, does he?
Beth Turley has some flowery language and situations, but as a 10-year-old girl I would have loved this. I see myself as a kid: not sure why best friends want other friends, why the older kids smoke, why a girl rather be a bully then make a friend. But also see some adult me, too. This book is relatable on several levels to many different ages.
As mentioned, some of the issues are solved easily (of course Hannah and the bully make friends), Hannah is a sensitive child with an understanding perhaps beyond her years (she understands a college level story as a 10-year-old) and the family dynamic is given a “poo-poo” treatment in a few places. The main storyline (who is bullying Hannah secretly) had two possible endings: the obvious one or a slightly less obvious. There is not a lot of “gray” even as you wonder “Who did it?” and “Will Hannah be okay?” You know there will be a “happy ending” even with the tensions presented.
(Paper due early September 2019)