Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 19th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh is a middle grade novel focusing on Beatrix Lee, a seventh grade, who is coming to terms with losing her best friend and being isolated at school. Bea is always a little too much herself. She is spontaneous, bright, impulsive and full of life. A poet in the making, she is the only child of a painter and a graphic novelist. Her parents are too busy with their own work and each other to give her much attention–not that Bea even realizes that. She has become self-sufficient and independent and thinks she is okay being by herself. Only…she really is not.
She leaves poetry written in slips of paper in a hideaway and someone responds. At first she thinks it is her estranged best friend but then more possibilities open up. She meets Will when she joins the school newspaper as the poetry editor. He is strange (I think he is autistic though it is never explicit) but in him, Bea finds friendship and a comfort. She also meets Briggs who might have more than platonic feelings for her and Jaime who is friendly. Her circle of acquaintances widens and Bea starts to engage in the world as more than just a spectator.
Kat Yeh’s prose is charming and immersive and the characters in The Way to be Bea are all perfectly rendered with flaws and good qualities that make them so much more human. Bea’s voice especially is compelling and quite a few times I found my heart clenching for this little girl trying to wade through emotional upheaval on her own. I liked that she makes mistakes and goes back and corrects her mistakes. I especially liked the ending which shows the importance of second chances but at the same time shows that learning from your mistakes and moving on is even more important. In fact, The Way to Bea has one of the best resolutions I can remember reading in long while.
The Way to Bea sets the bar very high for other novels in the same genre. There are many books out there about little girls fighting school, mean girls, and inattentive parents but there is only one Beatrix Lee and you definitely need to get to know her. Recommended.