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Author: Pamela Lowell

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Publisher: HarperTrophy, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: paperback

Summary: Claire and Nellie have been gymnasts forever. For Nellie, everything is easy. Claire can't work hard enough, and her parents let her know it. She'll never be like Nellie, and much prefers being with Nick ... which is where she's sneaking out to, tonight. Except that Nellie wants to come along. Angry and embarrassed that her younger sister is drunk, Claire loses it trying to get home before her parents find out. She loses control of the car and control of their lives. Nellie suffers a traumatic brain injury, and both girls have hard roads ahead of them trying to get back to "normal." Family relationships are the central theme for this realistic fiction novel.

Type of Reading: independent reading, family reading

Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 13 and up

Interest Level: 10 and Up

Reading Level: 3.9

Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Adult Reader Reaction: There were times when I felt very frustrated by Spotting for Nellie and other times I thought the story was spot-on and something every teen should read. I liked that both Nellie and Claire had a voice in the story (each narrated chapters), but I didn't always like Claire. Even though this was a different dynamic between the sister, the coming-of-age elements were a bit too pat for a story that could have so much depth. It also bothered me that the resources at the end focused on gymnastics and brain injuries - for parents! Surely there have to be some good resources for families to share dealing with teen alcohol use and divorce

Pros: The events that unfold give today's high school students an up-close story of how little things - particularly anger behind the wheel and alcohol - can have a BIG impact on your life.

Cons: Issues of teens and alcohol and premarital sex are both elements of the story. They are represented in a way that could be construed as "cool" to some readers.

Borrow or Buy: Skip. Although this is a fresh idea for teen readers, the story falls short of reaching its full potential.


Educational Themes: The central theme to this story is Claire's relationship with Nellie and her parents.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - family, friendship, life lessons, coming of age, middle grade, young adult

Date(s) Reviewed: October 2014

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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