Tuesday, April 18, 2023

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner
Publisher:  Aladdin
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  368
Publishing:  May 2nd, 2023
Source: Edelweiss+

Opening Lines: "I always think back to fourth grade..."

A Work in Progress was the first book I read to start of 2023, and WOW what an amazing book it is.  I mostly know Lerner from his humorous Enginerds book series, but I really must commend him for writing something that will surely touch so many kids' hearts, a story that as he has stated previously is very personal to him.    

Will Chambers is hanging out in the hallway at school, like most fourth graders do, when he feels a slight tap on his shoulder.  Upon turning around, he finds Nick Fisher, one of the boys in his grade who decides for whatever reason to take that moment in the already crowded hallway to call Will "fat."  Not to mention that his three best friends are there to hear Nick blurt out that he's "fat and everyone knows it." Anyone who reads this story can surely relate to how that moment must have made Will feel.  We've all had embarrassing moments, but Will takes Nick's words to heart.  They follow him around; they weave their way into his consciousness and begin to change his friendships.  Will starts to wear baggy clothing, avoids eating certain foods, and slowly his self-loathing leads him to abstain from eating altogether.  Then one day while hanging outside, a new boy skateboards on by.  Will likes the clothes this new boy wears, his hair, the way he has pink fingernails, but most of all he likes Markus's confidence.  The way he does and says what he wants, and he likes that Markus sees him and talks to him like anyone else.  With help from Markus, Will begins to see himself in a new light and through sharing their stories and being willing to put himself out there, Will begins to experience a positive change in his life. 

Oh, this story, such a beautiful heart-tugging story.  I could instantly relate to Will.  His struggles will invoke all kinds of memories too, embarrassing moments, moments where a person's words hurt you (I still can't listen to Randy Newman's Short People song for the teasing that I endured).  Hopefully people who read this book will see that words can wound you, change your whole perspective of yourself in an instant.  On the flipside it also illustrates that an act of kindness or acknowledgement can make a positive change.  Words do hold a huge weight, it's important to think about the things we say.  Choose our words carefully and never use them to bring someone else down.  We carry those words into adulthood.  Often reflecting on those insecurities that they created.

I love that the story was told in verse, it makes it even more special.  It truly has the feel of following Will's stream of thoughts as if reading his personal notebook.  You feel his sadness, anger and his hunger, even his battle over his body image.  I also loved the artwork that is intermixed within the words.  How some words tumble down the page and others are written in big bold font.  But what will stick with me the most about the book is the message that we all are a work in progress.  Can't wait to get a finished copy in May to read it all over again. 

** A huge thank you to Sarah at Wunderkind for putting this on my radar, and Edelweiss + for the E-ARC **          


  1. I will have to put this on my list. It sounds like a really important book for middle-graders and one that they will enjoy as well. Thanks for telling me about it.

  2. I'm so happy to read your review. I posted a review of this book, too, and had a really similar experience reading it. :) Thanks for sharing this.