Allison's Book Bag

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

Posted on: March 13, 2015

“Soof” is a word that Heidi’s mom regularly uses in So B. It, an award-winning novel young adult by Sarah Weeks. Finding out why the word “soof” is important to her mom turns out to key to the unfolding mystery and drama of Heidi’s life. With its unusual plot and quirky characters, So B. It is an absorbing and zealous read.

The plot begins with twelve-year-old Heidi and her mentally-disabled mother who live in an apartment that is connected to their agoraphobic neighbor, Bernadette, who acts as their caretaker. Bernadette not only teaches Heidi’s mother basic living skills, but she also home-schools Heidi. As a result of the latter, Heidi’s only friend of her age is an overweight boy who lives in the same apartment building. In Heidi’s search to discover the significance of “Soof” to her mother, she stumbles upon a box of twenty-three photos from her mother’s past. She also finds an old sweater, one which her mother had worn in one of those rare photos. From the photos, Heidi discovers that her mom once lived at Hilltop Home, a place which resists answering any and all phone calls from Bernadette. This leads the two to plague with residence with letters, a tactic that also gets ignored. Finally, Heidi decides she must take the journey herself to Hilltop, a venture that involves a long illegal bus ride, stormy weather that leaves Heidi without a way to call home, and many other adventures including a ride in a police car.

As for the quirky characters, I’ll start with Heidi. Besides her numerous lists, there is her uncanny luck. Heidi can play match every card in a memory game, the first time around. On a more practical level, Heidi never fails to win money at the slot machines. Moreover, for some unknown reason, they never receive any bills for fixed expenses such as electricity, gas, phone, and rent. Heidi also has the ability to look older than she is, which is what allows her to play the slot machines and later to take that illegal bus ride to Hilltop Home. Then there’s the overweight boy named Alexander. There are a lot of things about him that Heidi’s initially doesn’t like. He talks rough, doesn’t smell good, and kills ants. However, she does like what he eats and how he talks. The two form an odd friendship, one that ends up being invaluable to Heidi when she decides to leave everything she’s known to check out Hill Top. Other main characters include Bernadette who faints if she steps outside her doorstep and Heidi’s mother whose sole vocabulary amounts to twenty-three words.

If I had to pick just one other aspect of So B. It to highlight, I would have to applaud Sarah Weeks for the depth of her compassionate for those who are different. Heidi never disparages her mom in her failure to be a normal mom to her. Instead Heidi questions her mom about her words, her photos, and the sweater only out of a need to better understand who her mom—and therefore who herself—is. Although Heidi pushes Bernadette to try to overcome her agoraphobia, so that they might travel together to Hilltop, she eventually comes to accept how impossible this is. It would be like her mom suddenly not having a mental illness. Virtually every character that Heidi meets has a story behind their quirks and receives respect from Weeks in how she portrays them.

In 2010, I heard Weeks speak at a local literary festival and even bought some of her books to get signed. It’s taken five years for me to finally pull those books out. Now that I have, So B. It just might end up being my choice for the book of the year that I can’t believe I waited this long to read.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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