Review of Fighting Words

Fighting Words
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Intermediate, Middle School    Dial    269 pp.    g
8/20    978-1-9848-1568-2    $17.99

Ten-year-old Delicious Nevaeh Roberts, a.k.a. Della, doesn’t take “snow” from anyone (“Suki says whenever I want to use a bad word, I can say snow”). She’s learned to be tough from her fiercely protective sixteen-year-old sister Suki, who has been her de facto parent since their meth-addicted mother went to prison. Their life in East Tennessee is looking up now that they have moved in with pragmatic foster mom Francine. Della is making new friends at school and learning to swim at the Y, while Suki has scored a cashier job at their local supermarket. But Suki is hiding a devastating secret about the time they lived with their mom’s boyfriend Clifton, a secret that causes her to wake up screaming every night. It’s only after Suki attempts suicide that Della understands it’s time to use her own voice to help her sister speak up. “Sometimes you’ve got a story you need to find the courage to tell.” Newbery Honor winner Bradley (The War That Saved My Life, rev. 1/15) perfectly balances pathos and humor (as found in many of Della’s observations) in this tender story of sisterhood, while also showcasing the astonishing strength and resilience of children to confront, and eventually heal from, trauma and sexual abuse. Della’s bold, cheeky first-person narration is unforgettable, as is the supporting cast of adult characters, from redoubtable Francine to deli-counter worker Maybelline, whose brusque demeanor belies a kind heart. An author’s note includes information about suicide and abuse prevention organizations.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the library department chair and upper school librarian at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.