Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen
Bernice Buttman is nobody's fool. She'll take a kindergartner's lunch money without blinking, and nobody would dare make fun of her stained clothes or personal shortcomings. After all, if Bernice didn't beat them up, her older brothers would. Bernice decides to go to summer camp to learn how to do movie stunts, but it costs $2000, and even if her family had that kind of money, they would be unlikely to give it to her. In fact, when Bernice gets sent to live with her aunt, who is a nun, it might be the best possible chance for Bernice to raise the funds - one way or another.
This is the first book by this author, and it's a lighthearted look at some serious issues like economic class, family dynamics, defining yourself, and ethics. Readers may be reluctant to cheer for an unapologetically morally-challenged protagonist at first, but they won't be able to resist Bernice for long. She's plucky, independent, and while her honesty isn't consistent, it is sometimes unflinchingly admirable.
If you dislike bathroom humor, this might not be a good choice for you. It's also true that most supporting characters lack dimension; the plot and details are all in service of Bernice's journey. Still, it is refreshing to see a protagonist who isn't upper middle class or middle class, and while her poverty shapes her upbringing and many of her choices, it is not her focus. Bernice isn't wishing desperately to be like someone else - she just questions who she wants to be. Plenty of relatable details and humor make this a likely hit with a wide range of readers.
"Francie wiped a booger on my shirt, but in the nicest possible way."
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