Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review: Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen

BIG THANKS to Deanna and HarperCollinsCanada (The Reading Group) for sending me this book!

“Inside Out Girl” by Tish Cohen
Published by HarperCollins

Rating: 4 stars

Rachel is an uptight single mother of Janie and Dustin, who is trying to save her family’s parenting magazine from going under. Len is a widowed father, who is trying his best to raise his daughter in spite of her non-verbal learning disorder, which prevents her from finding meaning in people’s body language. Due to Olivia’s inability to understand social cues, she always wears her mismatched clothes inside out and is consequently deemed ‘inside out girl’ by her schoolmates.

Throughout the novel, readers get an intimate glimpse into the thoughts and lives of Rachel, Janie, Len and Olivia. My only criticism is that Rachel’s son, Dustin, and her mother, Piper, were always involved in the plot and yet never get the proper attention by the narrative that I would have liked to see. The reader does not get the chance to hear their perspectives on the events that transpire, which could have made for a more complete story.

What I really enjoyed about the book was its fresh approach to childhood disorders. Cohen was always sensitive with her description of non-verbal learning disorder and took care to inform readers, while also showing the difficulties and worries that often arise for affected children and their parents. I was incredibly moved by Cohen’s portrayal of Olivia, which I believe effectively conveys her true talents as a writer and a storyteller.

While there were instances when the fine line between heartwarming and cliché was blurred, the characters were still able to evoke genuine emotion out of me. I felt most connected to Olivia and I found myself wishing she was real just so I could give her a big hug! The bullying that she endured really angered me and the touching things she said never failed to elicit a smile or a tear. It is Olivia that truly carries the storyline and it is evident that she has a profound effect on the book’s characters and I’m sure an equally profound effect upon the book’s readers.

“Inside Out Girl” tells the story of two families who endure hardship and tragedy, but also gain important insight and self-discovery along the way. It is a story that contains romance, love and family but can by no means be described only as such. It is a much deeper look into life and what really matters once the trappings of daily life are shaved away.

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