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“You will never ever have to have a first day again. You’ve already done that. Firsts are the worst, that’s what I say. First dates, first kisses, first days, first jobs. Now it’s onto day two, and who knows what’s waiting for you,” Mema. –Roll with It
Roll with It
by Jamie Sumner
Ellie’s a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams. She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.
But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many, until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might be the best thing that ever happened to them!
The story’s plot has three main threads: Ellie’s cerebral palsy, Ellie’s grandfather’s dementia, and Ellie going to a new school. All of these events are told from Ellie’s point of view. Like most teens, Ellie just wants to be “normal.” However, because of her disease, she will never be like everyone else. However, Ellie has great talent in the kitchen. Ellie loves cooking and often writes to famous chefs. The letters give the reader an opportunity to understand Ellie’s feelings.
Roll with It shows how cerebral palsy affects Ellie on a daily basis and will help readers understand the hardships of living with a disability. While the story has many unique characters, Ellie is the only one who is well-developed. Many readers may have a difficult time relating to Ellie and her friends, who are outcasts at school; the story implies that Ellie and her friends will always be looked down upon because they live in a trailer park. In addition, the divergent plots do not meld well together and are underdeveloped. Because of these issues, Ellie and her story will be quickly forgotten.
One positive aspect of the story is that it teaches that “the best plan is the one you don’t make for yourself.” However, if you’re looking for a story that shows the difficulties of living with a disability, you may want to skip Roll with It and instead read Sumner’s more engaging book Tune It Out.
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Ellie’s grandfather is in the hospital, Mema says, “Lord, the amount of smoking that goes on outside this hospital, mind you, makes you wonder all over again at the state of our health care.”
- Lord is used as an exclamation twice.
- One of Ellie’s friends has birds in the house and “they crap on the furniture.”
- Ellie thinks about God and “what it means to ‘live a life according to your convictions,’ as my grandma’s pastor would say.” Ellie contemplates God over two pages. During her musings, she thinks, “I like the idea that baking can be another way of talking to God. So maybe when I bake, it counts as praying and God understands where I’m coming from.”
- When Ellie’s grandparents began dating, Mema thought “he looked like ‘God or the devil’ when he rode up to her dressed all in black from head to toe. . .”
- Ellie’s friend is upset. She tells Ellie, “You do not get to pull the cripple card. I am singing the national anthem in front of God and the entire middle school, and I want my best friend there to witness.”
- Ellie’s grandparents go to church.
- When Ellie’s grandpa gets in an accident, Ellie “prayed for Grandpa to be healed and for Mom to settle down. . .”
- When Ellie wakes up in a hospital, she prays, “Please, God, don’t let it have been a seizure.”
- Ellie’s mother is looking at a retirement home. When Ellie sees the brochures, she wonders if her mother would ever get sick of her and put her in a home. Ellie says, “God wouldn’t want you to give up on me.”
- Ellie wants to win a baking competition, but she has no idea what to make. She prays, “Please help me find the perfect pie, that one that’s most me.” Her prayer lasts for a page.