Study Guide

Flipped Courage

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Courage

I was relieved, but I also felt like a weenie. When I'd seen where my kite was trapped, I was sure it was a goner. Not Juli. She scrambled up and got it down in no time. Man, it was embarrassing.

So I made a mental picture of how high she climbed, and the next day I set off to outdo her by at least two branches. I made it past the crook, up a few limbs, and then—just to see how I was doing—I looked down.

Mis-take! It felt like I was on top of the Empire State building without a bungee. I tried looking up to where my kite had been, but it was hopeless. I was indeed a tree-climbing weenie. (3.16-18)

Bryce does not like climbing trees, and when he fails to get as high as Juli, he ends up calling himself a "tree-climbing weenie." Do you think this is a fair title for this guy? We're wondering if Bryce isn't giving himself enough credit. After all—he did try to climb the tree. Even though fear brought him back down, at least he took a go at it in the first place.

It was a long way up, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I shinnied up the trunk, took a shortcut across the slide, and started climbing. Champ kept a good eye on me, barking me along, and soon I was higher than I'd ever been. But still the kite seemed forever away. […]

Then I looked down. Down at Bryce. And suddenly I got dizzy and weak in the knees. It was miles off the ground! Bryce shouted, "Can you reach it?" (4.23, 29)

When Juli first climbs the sycamore tree, she feels just a wee bit scared—but even when she's scared, she also shows a big batch of courage. Check out how she jumps right into climbing the sycamore. In fact, she doesn't even get scared until she's part of the way up. And does that fear stop our courageous leading lady? No way. She just keeps going.

When I had the kite free, I needed a minute to rest. To recover before starting down. So instead of looking at the ground below me, I held on tight and looked out. Out across the rooftops. 

That's when the fear of being up so high began to lift, and in its place came the most amazing feeling that I was flying. Just soaring above the earth, sailing among the clouds.

Then I began to notice how wonderful the breeze smelled. It smelled like…sunshine. Like sunshine and wild grass and pomegranates and rain! I couldn't stop breathing it in, filling my lungs again and again with the sweetest smell I'd ever known. (4.32-34)

Even though Juli had a bit of fear when climbing the tree, all that falls away when she sees the view. Did you notice how much Juli's description of her feelings changes as she climbs the tree? She goes from "fear" to feeling like she's "flying." Now that's a pretty great prize for bravely climbing a tree.

When my mother's gone, my dad says, "So, son, why don't you ask Juli?"

"Dad!"

"It's just a little question, Bryce. No harm, no foul."

"But it'll get me a half-hour answer!"

He studies me for a minute, then says, "No boy should be this afraid of a girl."

"I'm not afraid of her…!"

"I think you are." (5.68-74)

Bryce is so nervous to chat with Juli about her eggs. What do you think he is afraid of? Is he afraid because Juli is a girl, like his dad thinks? Or is he worried about being embarrassed? Is something else afoot here?

"Patsy, that's not the point. The point is, I will not have a coward for a son!"

"But teaching him to lie?"

"Fine. Then just throw them away. But from now on I expect you to look that little tiger square in the eye, you hear me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Okay, then."

I was off the hook for all of about eight days. Then there she was again, at seven in the morning, bouncing up and down on our porch with eggs in her hands. "Hi, Bryce! Here you go."

I tried to look her square in the eye and tell her, No thanks, but she was so darned happy, and I wasn't really awake enough to tackle the tiger. She wound up pushing another carton into my hands, and I wound up ditching them in the kitchen trash before my father sat down to breakfast.

This went on for two years. (5.180-187)

Bryce's fear of talking to Juli just won't go away—according to Bryce's dad, this makes him a "coward." And Mr. Loski has a pretty different word for Juli: "tiger." Bryce uses the same word to describe Juli, too. So what do you think of these descriptions? Do you agree with Bryce's dad that his son is a coward and Juli is a tiger?

I was happy to finally be planting the yard, but I couldn't help being distracted by Bryce's window. Was he watching? During the rest of the afternoon, I checked more often than I'd like to admit. And I'm afraid Chet noticed, too, because when we were all done and we'd congratulated each other on what was sure to be a fine-looking yard, he said, "He may be acting like a coward now, but I do hold out hope f or the boy."

A coward? What on earth could I say to that? I just stood there with the hose in one hand and the spigot valve beneath the other. […]

I few minutes later I saw Bryce coming down the sidewalk toward his house. (8.137-138, 140)

Bryce hasn't apologized to Juli yet about the eggs incident, and he hasn't said he's sorry about the messy yard comments either. Granddad Chet has some strong words to describe his grandson… including "coward." Yep—even though Chet and Mr. Loski are pretty different characters, they both think that Bryce is acting like a scaredy-cat. Now that we've got even more people calling our main man a coward, do you think he fits the bill? Or does he prove his courage when he finally apologizes?

Later, as I was brushing my teeth, I considered bribing Juli. Getting her on board so that nobody brought up the subject of eggs. Or maybe I could sabotage the dinner somehow. Make it not happen. Yeah, I could—I stopped myself and looked in the mirror. What kind of wimp was I, anyway? I spit and headed back to find my mom. (9.39)

Not long ago, Bryce finally got up the guts to apologize to Juli about the eggs and the yard—but then the second the Loski-Baker joint family dinner comes up, he wants to try to weasel his way out. Not cool, Bryce. But here's what saves Bryce in our book: he doesn't go through with his sabotage. Instead he takes a good hard look at himself and decides to have a little more courage.

"Juli, you don't understand. I wanted to punch him! Really, I did! But we were in the library…."

"So instead you laughed."

He shrugged and looked miserable and sheepish. "Yeah."

I left him. Just walked into the living room and left him. If he was making it up, he was quite an actor. If he was telling the truth, then Chet was right—he was a coward. Either way, I didn't want to be anywhere near him. (12.14-17)

There's that word "coward" again—it's been going around a lot. And often in reference to Bryce. Juli thinks Bryce is a coward if he doesn't stand up for how he truly feels. Soon Bryce will realize that being courageous sometimes means going against your friends.

And how am I going to make her listen to me? I'd scale that monster sycamore if I could. Right to the top. And I'd yell her name across the rooftops for the whole world to hear. And since you know what a tree-climbing weenie I am, I think it's pretty clear that I'm willing to do anything to get her to talk to me. Man, I'll dive after her into a chicken coop full of poop if that's what it takes. I'll ride my bike all the stinkin' way to school for the rest of eternity if it means being with her. (13.192)

Bryce has had a serious surge of courage—now that he likes Juli, he's willing to do anything to get her. After seeing Bryce scared so many times, it's cool to see a new side of him: the super courageous side. He's even willing to climb a sycamore tree, which is pretty cool. So Bryce can talk a good game, but do you think he can follow through? Does his courage run deep enough to translate into action? We certainly hope so.

Mom sat there for the longest time, biting her cheek. Then she said, "People do change, you know. Maybe he's had some revelations lately, too. And frankly, any boy who tries to kiss a girl in front of a room full of other kids does not sound like a coward to me." She stroked my hair and whispered, "Maybe there's more to Bryce Loski than you know." (14.234)

Even though we've been hearing that Bryce is a coward for a lot of this book, he's definitely started acting more courageously lately. In fact, we're with wise Mrs. Baker on this one—his whole kissing stunt earns Bryce some serious courage points in our book. So now we just have to wait and see what Juli thinks. After all, even she has called him a coward before. Do you think she can start seeing him as courageous instead?