When Claire’s best friend moves away just before the start of fifth grade, Claire suddenly becomes the only girl in the entire elementary school. While the boys are resentful that she gets a bathroom all to herself, Claire soon sees the lonelier side of things–until a few incidents put her quite literally in the spotlight.
Title: The Only Girl in School
Author: Natalie Standiford
Publication date: January 26, 2016
Claire lives in a tiny town on an island. After her best friend moves away, Claire’s fifth grade class consists of her and six boys. That’s how tiny it is. Even with just 45-50 kids in the the entire elementary school, it’s statistically improbable that there wouldn’t be a single other girl, but I decided to overlook that. After all, I knew going into the book what it was about. The title makes that pretty clear.
Claire’s counting on her other best friend Henry to get her through the school year, but suddenly Henry doesn’t want anything to do with her. Henry’s not such a good friend after all, it seems. The only boy who does want to hang out with her is Yucky Gilbert, a boy with a crush on Claire. Even though she’s repulsed by him, that comes in handy at times, like when she needs a crew for Regatta Day. I found the racing, just a normal part of her life on an island, to be interesting and wish there had been more focus on that. There’s also a fun story about the local legend of Smuggler Joe. No one really knows whether it’s true or not, but when Claire’s forced to work with some of the boys on a school project, they decide to find out. Again, I wish this had been developed more. Actually, the Smuggler Joe story alone could have made up an entire book (a different book, but a fun, adventurous one). But The Only Girl in School, written in letters to Claire’s best friend, covers the whole school year so there wasn’t time to dig too deeply into anything but the ongoing story of Claire’s loneliness and the bullying directed toward her.
I liked Claire and it was easy to empathize with her being the only girl in her school. Even if the boys had been more accepting, it would have been difficult. I kept wondering why her parents didn’t intervene a little more on her behalf. It’s a very small town and I’m sure they know the other residents very well, especially considering many of them grew up on the island too. Most of the teachers are supportive of Claire but one in particular is worse than the boys. His behavior is really unacceptable coming from an adult in an authority position.
There’s another book that came out recently too called The Last Boy at St. Edith’s. I’ll be reading that soon, so we’ll see how it goes in reverse.