Study Guide

Flipped Perseverance

By Wendelin Van Draanen


Then one time, during a test, Julie's in the middle of sniffing my hair when she notices that I've blown a spelling word. A lot of words. Suddenly the sniffing stops and the whispering starts. At first I couldn't believe it. Juli Baker cheating? But sure enough, she was spelling words for me, right in my ear.

Juli'd always been sly about sniffing, which really bugged me because no one ever noticed her doing it, but she was just as sly about giving me answers, which was okay by me. The bad thing about it was that I started counting on her spelling in my ear. I mean, why study when you don't have to, right? (1.65-66)

Bryce has found an easy way to get the answers for his tests: wait for Juli to give them to him. Looks like this guy doesn't want to try hard if he can help it. But even though Bryce likes not having to study, he still sees a downside to this whole cheating business—he knows it's a "bad thing" that he relies so much on someone else's help with his tests.

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)

Juli climbs a tree like a champ. Sure the kite is super high in the tree, but that's not about to stop hard-working Juli from reaching it. What do you think about Bryce's reaction to the kite's height? Calling himself a "weenie" seems a little harsh to us. Do you think he just doesn't want to try hard enough to reach the kite? Or is he scared to climb up that high?

"Because that girl's got an iron backbone. Why don't you invite her over sometime?"

"An iron backbone? Granddad, you don't understand! That girl is a royal pain. She's a show-off, she's a know-it-all, and she is pushy beyond belief!" (3.54-55)

To Bryce Juli's persistence makes her a "know-it-all," but to Granddad it makes her a girl with an "iron backbone." This is a pretty cool metaphor, we think—it means Juli is so strong and tough that it's as if her spine is made of iron. And you can bet iron is going to keep its shape and stand up for itself. So we've one persistent gal, and two reactions to this perseverance. Which guy do you agree with? Is Bryce being too critical? Or is Granddad being too generous?

Its trunk bent up and around in almost a complete spiral, and it was so much fun to ride down. My mom told me she thought the tree must have been damaged as a sapling but survived, and now, maybe a hundred years later, it was still there, the biggest tree she'd ever seen. "A testimony to endurance" is what she called it. (4.18)

Juli's mom has a neat idea about the sycamore tree—she says it's a symbol of "endurance." That tree saw some hard times, but it kept trucking right on through. We think that's pretty impressive, but what do you think? Now we're extra sad that the tree gets chopped down since it was such a persevering little sapling.

"Can you climb that high?" he called up to me.

"Sure!" I called back. And up, up, up I went.

The branches were strong, with just the right amount of intersections to make climbing easy. […]

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?"

I caught my breath and managed to call down, "No problem!" then forced myself to concentrate on those blue and yellow stripes, to focus on them and only them as I shinnied up, up, up. Finally I touched it; I grasped it; I had the kite in my hand! (4.26-30)

Nothing is going to stop Juli from climbing the sycamore tree to save Bryce's kite—not even a bit of fear. Just like Bryce Juli feels a bit scared while she's climbing the tree, but while Bryce decides to climb back down, Juli perseveres and climbs higher. Of course, she does have her cute crush watching her. And we're thinking that's a good motivator for our gal Juli to keep going "up, up, up."

The bus was three blocks away. I'd never missed school for any reason other than legitimate illness, but I knew in my heart that I was going to miss my ride. "You're going to have to cut me down!" I yelled. Then I had an idea. They'd never cut it down if all of us were in the tree. They'd have to listen! "Hey, guys!" I called to my classmates. "Get up here with me! They can't cut it down if we're all up here! Marcia! Tony! Bryce! C'mon, you guys, don't let them do this!"

They just stood there, staring up at me. (4.81-82)

When folks try to cut down the sycamore tree, Juli is not about to back down without a fight—in fact, she tries to get everyone in on the fight, too. In comparison with her classmates, Juli sure is one persistent kid. She even decides to miss school if it'll help save her tree, and for Juli that's a big deal. But in the end, Juli doesn't win this battle. What do you think this says about her hard work? Was it all a waste?

It wasn't just the yard. It was my dad's truck, my mother's car, the family bike that was more rust than steel, and the fact that when we did buy something new, it always seemed to come from a second-time-around store. Plus, we never went on vacation. Ever.

Why was that? My father was the hardest-working man in the world, and my mother worked for TempService doing secretarial jobs whenever she could. What was all that hard work about if this is where it got you? (8.6-7)

Juli knows that her parents work super har, but she also knows that they aren't reaping oodles of rewards as a result. Instead their money is tight. Even though Juli doesn't care about money or having new things, she still wants to understand the value of hard work. And the question she asks here sure is a doozy. What do you think the answer is? What is all this hard work about? And is it worth it for the Baker family?

But then I remembered my mother's words from the night before. Surely, I thought, a few bushes and some dilapidated wood couldn't stop someone's best and brightest blessing! Surely not!

And with that, I picked up the clippers and got to work. (8.58-59)

Juli is hard at work cleaning up her front yard. And this project is seriously huge—there are bushes to prune, a fence to build, and grass to plant. But when Juli feels discouraged, she doesn't let that keep her down; instead she uses her mom's encouragement to get her going again.

How do I show her that I'm not the guy she thinks I am? How do I erase everything I've done and start over?

Maybe I can't. Maybe it just can not be done. But if I've learned one thing from Juli Baker, it's that I've got to put my whole heart and soul into it and try. (13.196-197)

Bryce has turned a corner. This whole book, Juli has been the go-getter gal who perseveres to the end, but now Bryce is taking a page out of the Juli-book. He decides to prove to her that he's a new guy—and he's going to try and try and try until he succeeds. It's pretty cool that Bryce realizes that he's learned this lesson from Juli herself. What do you think of this? How has Juli taught Bryce to try his hardest?

Every time I turned around, there he was, pestering me.

I wanted to be able to water the yard in peace. I wanted not to have to avoid him at school or have Darla run block for me. Why didn't he understand that I wasn't interested in what he had to say? What could he possibly have to say? Was it so much to ask just to be left alone?

Then this afternoon I was reading a book in the front room with the curtains drawn, hiding from him as I had all week, when I heard a noise in the yard. I peeked outside and there was Bryce, walking across my grass. (14.237-239)

Bryce has turned into a persistent little bugger. We remember a little girl back in the day who used to chase Bryce around nonstop—and now the tables are turned and Juli gets to see what it's like to have a guy chase after her. Bryce is pulling out all the stops too, and he won't give up. Hmm… looks like Bryce and Juli might have more in common than she realizes.