The world is full of unknowns. It changes constantly, and for a kid like Bea, unknowns and changes mean bad feelings. She’s got enough to worry about: her parents have been divorced for two years, her school’s year-long colonial breakfast project is nearing completion, she’s yet to be invited to any of her fifth-grade teacher’s monthly spelling parties, her father is getting remarried, she thinks her mother might be sad about it and then a bat flew into her apartment one night and now she and her mother could have rabies.

It’s a lot of worrying for one ten-year-old to do. 

In The List of Things That Will Not Change (Wendy Lamb Books) by Rebecca Stead, Bea must confront a world of messy and worrisome things – family, friends, marriage, divorce and those pesky things called emotions. Fortunately for Bea, her life is teeming with loved ones who support her: her mom and dad, her dad’s soon-to-be husband Jesse, Jesse’s sister Shelia, her best friends Lizette and Angus, her therapist Miriam, a dog named Rocco and a cat named Red.

When Bea’s mom and dad told her two years ago that they were getting divorced, they handed her a green spiral notebook. Inside was “the list of things that will not change.” Yes, divorce meant that many things in Bea’s life were going to be different. For starters, her parents were no longer going to live in the same apartment in New York City. She would alternate days and weekends with each of them, but the list told her that despite all these big changes, Bea’s “mom loves [her] more than anything, always,” and her “dad loves [her] more than anything, always.” These things would never change. 

Now that Bea’s dad is marrying Jesse, Bea knows that “Jesse is staying,” and that will never change. Bea loves Jesse and is excited for her dad to marry him, but she’s even more excited that Jesse has a ten-year-old daughter, which means Bea’s about to get the one thing she’s always wanted – a sister. 

But Bea isn’t the only kid who worries about change. Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, has never stayed anywhere except for at her mom’s house. She’s never flown across the country on her own. She’s also never had a sister. Bea is a big adjustment for Sonia, and Sonia may not be as excited about having a new sister as Bea is. 

Turns out, Bea isn’t the only one with complex emotions toward the unknowns of the world. 

Rebecca Stead’s novel explores all the messy parts of life in a way that young readers can easily understand: In some ways, divorce breaks up a family, but as Bea discovers, it also has the potential to make a family grow beyond belief. Bea learns that anger often covers up fear and that feelings, no matter how ugly, are never wrong – violent outbursts, on the other hand, are never okay. If those outbursts do happen, an apology that acknowledges her inappropriate behavior can go a long way to earn forgiveness – but she also must remember to forgive herself. 

Most importantly, Bea learns that “life is like a trip … what matters most is the people you travel with,” and no matter how worrisome the world can be, “love is one of the things we should never forget to celebrate,” because happiness can make a person, especially Bea, feel incredibly brave.

Buy this book!

Rebecca Stead is an award-winning author of books for children and teens. Her previous works include First Light, the Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy, and Goodbye Stranger. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband and two sons.