Friday, July 28, 2017

"Just Sayin'" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Just Sayin' is a quick easy read with a somewhat gimmicky letter-writing storytelling method.

Nick's father and Cassie's mother suddenly break off their engagement, leaving the would-be step-siblings feeling sad and confused. 11-year-old Cassie is a big fan of letter writing, and thus starts writing to several people. Correspondences shown in the book include Nick, his father, his sister, Cassie, her mother, her grandmother, her pastor, Jesus, and Nick and Cassie's idol, a TV comedian famous for his insults.

Together, Nick and Cassie try to figure out what caused their parents to break up and scheme to get them back together again, through entering an insult contest where the prize was a family cruise.

Each letter is written in a different "handwriting" or typeface, as well as shown on different types of paper (lined, ripped out of notebook, etc.). Occasionally there's also an image of a pen laying on the page. The story is told only through letters and therefore necessitates people including a lot of detail in letters that they wouldn't normally. For example, Cassie writes her would-be stepsister Julie about the first time they met including every detail. Not only is it hard to believe that an 11-year-old would remember such detail, but also think to write about it. Another example is that Cassie's grandmother ends up also writing letters to the TV comedian and writes about her family's lives, including telling a complete stranger about her daughter and would-be son-in-law's breakup.

Overall though, it was a really enjoyable read, with some suspension of disbelief. I doubt any of those factors would bother the intended juvenile audience. There's a lot of humor in this book, especially with the insult contest where Nick and Cassie show off their skills.

There's also a great message to the book, where Cassie realizes that words are powerful--and can be hurtful. After exchanging letters with her pastor, she begins to read the Bible and write letters to Jesus. The change in her attitude is significant, but believable. Instead of saying insulting things that can be hurtful, she switches to more general statements and observations that are actually even more hard-hitting than a standard insult would've been. One of such "insults" she uses is "a sharp tongue does not necessarily indicate a sharp mind," a general statement not directed at hurting anyone (159).

I would definitely recommend this book for children around the ages of the protagonists. Other than Nick sneaking off to take a bus on his own, the message overall is very positive and it's highly entertaining.

I received this book for free but was not required to post a positive review.

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