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In Your Shoes


In Your Shoes

Amy and Miles have a lot in common. They’re both 11 years old and students at Buckington Middle School in Pennsylvania. They both have talents that make them stand out from other kids and they both have family attachments to well-known town institutions. They also both know what it’s like to have a close relative die.

But at the beginning of IN YOUR SHOES by Donna Gephart they both don’t know each other. That’s about to change in a rather spectacular fashion when a flying bowling shoe worn by Miles flies through the air and hits Amy smack in the forehead on her first day at Buckington Middle. As far as first impressions go, it wasn’t a great one and it doesn’t seem like the two are destined to be friends.

"There is a degree of sadness that presides over the novel, but it’s accompanied by bursts of continual strength...IN YOUR SHOES is about two kids who...continue to find ways to thrive."

Amy moved to Buckington from Chicago with her dad after her mother’s death. The pair are living with her Uncle Matt above Eternal Peace Funeral Home, the family business. Her dad is away during the week to learn the skills to work at the funeral home and Amy is lonely. She misses her Corgi, Ernest, who was left behind with a neighbor and her best friend, Kat. She also misses her mom and is dealing with her grief while trying to adjust to her very different life. One of Amy’s biggest worries is making friends and she also is afraid that the heel lift she uses because one of her legs is shorter than the other.

Miles is really good at bowling. That has to do with Buckington Bowl, the family’s bowling alley, where Miles spends most of his time outside of school. Every morning he meets up with his best friend Randall for a couple rounds and they bet money. Hustling his friend for money doesn’t sit well with Miles, but it’s all part of a bigger plan. Miles’ Grandpop Billy has a 75th birthday coming up and Miles is saving money to take him to the Bowling Museum Hall of Fame. Grandpop Billy has been really sad since Miles’ Bubbie Louise died and Miles thinks the hall of fame, which they always wanted to visit, will be the perfect birthday gift.

There also is the upcoming dance which Miles views with anxiety and Randall views with excitement. It’s easy for Randall, Miles reasons, because Randall has his neighbor Tate to ask. Miles doesn’t have a friend like Tate though, what he has in another situation to add to his increasing anxiety. 

Another thing Amy and Miles have in common is that they both worry a lot. Miles worries about his family and his friends, and what could happen to them. Amy worries about her dad and fitting in at school and the life she left behind in Chicago. Their anxieties are played out in their activities. Miles’s bowling helps him accomplish goals. Amy’s writing of fairy tales helps her write the neat way she wants her life to be. 

There’s also the occasional contribution from the narrator, who pops in every now and then to help move the story along. These brief vignettes can take away from the main plot and the momentum of the story. Miles and Amy are surrounded by a varied cast of supporting characters, all who have an activity that makes them stand out. Randall has a side business selling sneakers. Tate, who becomes Amy’s first friend and is also friends with Randall and Miles, is a knitter who sells her hats online and also competes in weight lifting competitions. At times it is hard to believe these characters are really only 11 years old.

After the incident with the shoe, Miles and Amy slowly become friends. There’s a setback involving a soft drink being spilled at the bowling alley, but the two circle around each other until they meet somewhere in the middle. There is a degree of sadness that presides over the novel, but it’s accompanied by bursts of continual strength from both Miles and Amy. At its heart IN YOUR SHOES is about two kids who have some hard challenges in their young lives but continue to find ways to thrive.

Reviewed by Liz Sauchelli on November 29, 2018

In Your Shoes
by Donna Gephart