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Review: Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson

Thursday, June 23, 2011
4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover: 198 Page
Publication: September 13, 2011 Milkweed Editions

Fifteen-year-old Calli has just about everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to be foster parents. Unfortunately, being a foster sister to Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. First Cherish steals Calli’s boyfriend, then begins to pit Calli’s moms against one another, and she even steals Calli’s iPod. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli steals one of Cherish’s necklaces. But this plan for revenge goes horribly awry, and Cherish ends up in juvenile detention.

Isolating herself from her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, Calli wrestles with her guilt and tries to figure out a way to undo the damage she’s caused. When her moms are asked to take on another foster child, Calli sees an opportunity to make amends for her past mistakes.

Funny, moving, and emotionally rich, Calli is a portrait of an endearing young woman caught between adolescence and adulthood, striving to do the right thing even when all of her options seem wrong.

Calli is a refreshingly realistic YA novel about a fifteen-year-old misfit who has two moms, wears size thirteen, and has a foster sister who acts mean to her outside of the house. Yes, Calli’s mom is a lesbian, but the story doesn’t center on the issue of Calli having to deal with lesbian issues herself. While she is teased for supposedly being lesbian herself, she has a loving boyfriend and loves him back. At least, until she sees him kissing her foster sister Cherish in the school hallways, which is where the story starts off.

The heart of the issue of this story is normal teen angst. Calli suffers the problem of loving Dub even though she saw him cheating on her. Call feels neglected by her mom, who spends most of her time trying to help Cherish feel at ease in their family. Calli worries that her best friend Delia is becoming a stranger.

Calli’s issues are relatable to any teenager. We’ve had fights with siblings, felt alienated from friends, and believed that our parents liked the other sibling better. To be honest, there were times when I was frustrated with Calli. She doesn’t speak up to her moms about Cherish’s rudeness. She doesn’t try to communicate with Delia or confront Dub. She constantly beats herself up on the inside about her problems. However, I’m just as guilty as her of having done the same things in my life.

One thing I loved about this novel is the strong focus on familial relationships. Despite her feelings of neglect, Calli has a strong relationship with both her moms, and she grows to understand and appreciate the foster system despite her troubles with Cherish. In fact, she grows to understand and appreciate Cherish. As she matures over the course of the story, Calli will learn to confront people, to forgive, and to make peace.

Jessica Lee Anderson has written a powerfully realistic and moving story on learning to be more open and accepting of both yourself and of those around you. While Calli’s mom is a lesbian, she doesn’t feel the need to be one herself, and Anderson never makes gay issues prevalent in her novel, which is something we should learn to do in our lives. Instead, it focuses on teen angst, Calli’s relationships with family and friends, and confronting our doubts and fears.

Something I really liked from the story:
Calli has a unique personality. She doesn’t cuss outright, saying words like ‘French’ instead of the four-letter ‘f’ word and ‘chicken turd’.


An ARC was provided for review purposes by the publisher.
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4 comments on "Review: Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson"
  1. Thank you so much for reading CALLI and for your thoughtful review!

  2. My pleasure. I really enjoyed reading it!!

  3. Enjoyed your review! Don't think this is my type of book right now as I'm on an urban fanstasy kick, but sounds like a good read for others!

    Alexia's Books and Such...

  4. Weekend Review Club! First of all, following you now...I absolutely love your blog! I really enjoyed your review, you told me all about Calli and the issues dealt with through the story, which made me want to read this book even more. It sounds really good! I know we can all probably relate to the teen angst at least a little bit. Thanks for sharing this great review with us, I'll have to keep an eye out for this book!

    Jamie @ Bookerella


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