Abby Cooper’s STICKS & STONES really takes you back to what life was like in middle school: it’s so on target. The insecurities, the social pressures, the first crushes, the approval seeking are all so well-depicted. At the core of Elyse’s story is a wonderfully creative look at name-calling and negative self-talk among middle schoolers, and how these messages can hurt. While unconditional positive regard is a nice idea, it simply doesn’t happen in the real world. Elyse learns that being afraid of bad names is no way to live and pushes herself to find self-acceptance. I love stories like this that embrace our differences, whether they be social, mental, or health matters.