Study Guide

Savvy Quotes

  • Communication

    "I don't have any friends, Miss Rosemary," I said, hoping that the truth might end the conversation. (4.9)

    A hard truth sometimes can stunt communication—even though it's trying its hardest to communicate. It's interesting in the beginning of the book that Mibs does not want to communicate very much, especially with people outside of the family. How else is she going to make friends?

    The pastor, holding tight tot a large pink Bible, was bellowing at a man so thin, he'd have to stand up twice to cast a shadow. (7.1)

    The more you know: the pastor is really just trying to bend the man to his will. Also, just because you're speaking at a higher volume, doesn't mean you're getting your thoughts across any better.

    But all he could manage to say was "Well, sir…" or "No, sir…" or "If you'll just sign here, sir…" before the preacher cut him off again. (7.5)

    Poor Lester is really bad at communicating: he hasn't learned that standing up for yourself doesn't make you a mean person and that speaking your side is actually a really healthy and fun thing to do. And if we aren't clear, it's really rude to cut someone off when they're speaking.

    From where I sat on the blue plaid sofa, I couldn't see where these other voices were coming from. But to my distress and dismay, the voices sounded pretty surely like they might be coming from inside my head. (7.15)

    This is a big moment for Mibs—she's just now getting her savvy. The problem is, though, that she wants her savvy to be waking things up, so she's going to spend the next several chapters denying the voices in her head (which, let's be real, is what a lot of sane people would do). This is a turning point in the story and the truth of the moment is something that Mibs needs to come to terms with and communicate with herself about… but if she didn't deny the voices in her head, most of the book wouldn't happen.

    Perhaps Samson's strengthening touch was just an ordinary sort of human magic, the kind of magic that exists in the honest, heartfelt concern of one person for another. (13.5)

    Communication isn't always just about spoken words—Samson is really great at making people feel at ease and like they are understood, which is what communication should do. Have you ever communicated a thought with a friend from across a room, just using your face? It's kind of like that. Samson is a pretty interesting character—normally the calming force in a story comes from an older character, but Samson is the youngster of the crowd. Which brings up an interesting question: How cool is Samson going to be when he grows up?

    "What's the half-baked idiot thinking? Lester should have his head examined," Rhonda was saying from Lester's left arm. "How could any son of mine turn out to be such a namby-pamby?" (13.6)

    Notice the pattern with Lester? He allows too many people to tell him what he's doing wrong—he needs to learn to communicate with himself a lot more.

    For once, Bobbi was speechless; not even her little angel had much to say. (21.14)

    A speechless sixteen-year-old? We don't believe you. But for real, speaking as former sixteen-year-olds, they are actually pretty good at communicating—and telling everybody else what they've done wrong. What we're witnessing in this moment, though, is Bobbi growing as a teenager and as a person. Notice how she gets a lot nicer to everyone after this?

    "It will be all right," the singsong voice said inside my head. I looked up at Bobbi, who was looking right back at me intently. She nodded at me once. (24.22)

    This is a seriously huge moment for Mibs and Bobbi. Not only are these two actually communicating, but they're doing it by using Mibs's savvy. Might these two actually become friends? Time will tell.

    If I could tell what Lester was thinking or feeling by listening to those voices in my head, why did they always talk about him like he wasn't even there? [...] No wonder the man had a stutter and a twitch. (26.34)

    This is very telling about Lester: he's so beaten down by other people's opinions that he doesn't even have room for his own thoughts in his own head. This explains why he's the way he is in the beginning—working a job that someone else is making him do, that he doesn't like very much, and isn't very good at. is living someone else's opinions, because he doesn't value his own.

    All I could do was listen uselessly. But listen I did. I listened until my ears rang with all the soft beeping and shushing and humming and buzzing of the machines that surrounded him. (36.14)

    We've paid a whole lot of attention to the speaking part of communication, but listening is arguably the most important piece. Here Mibs shows that she understands now that listening to other people instead of assuming that you know what they're thinking, feeling, or believing is always the best course of action.

  • Family

    "Look, it's the weird kids. My mom said they had to move here because one of them got into some huge kind of trouble." (2.6)

    Misery loves company, and although the Beaumonts separate themselves from other folks because of their differences, it brings them closer together as a family. Moments like these, hard as they can be, also can help you find your true friends and family.

    It was hard for us Beaumont kids to make friends and keep them. It was unsafe to invite anyone over with Fish and Rocket still learning to scumble their savvies […]. (2.11)

    You can't choose your family, right? There might be a bit of resentment in Mibs over the Beaumonts' situation. The savvy is the secret that keeps the family together, but it also isolates her from the outside world.

    Since Rocket was Momma and Poppa's first child, and Poppa came from an ordinary, everyday family with no special talents except that of losing all their hair before turning thirty, Rocket feared that he'd take after Poppa […]. (4.16)

    Family can make you crazy, but the Beaumonts special talents can make you even crazier. This gives some exposition on why Rocket has a chip on his shoulder about his savvy—he was fearful that he wouldn't get it in the first place.

    And we didn't care that Poppa had no savvy, and he didn't care that the rest of us did… or would. (5.18)

    Home is where they have to let you in, no matter what you're like. And if you can accept yourself then you're always home, no matter who's around you. Poppa is a good example of an accepting personality, and in a way he exemplifies the motto of the Beaumonts: accept yourself for who you are, because you're still family no matter what.

    Fish scowled at the two girls, and a burst of wind hit us all so sharp and sudden that it sent them scurrying from the open doorway to check their hair and fix up all their froufrou frippery. (6.6)

    Family means protecting your annoying little sister while using your secret super power. This is a very telling moment about Fish: while he's willing to be gruff with outsiders and even with members of his own family (like a typical big brother), he's still a caring person who's willing to step outside his safety zone to take care of the people he cares about.

    "Mibs doesn't need a doctor, Miss Rosemary," Fish kept saying as he grabbed for the telephone in the woman's hand. "All she needs is to go home. To go home now!" (7.8)

    No one know how to take better care of their own than family. Fish certainly knows how important that is here. From his own experience, Fish knows firsthand how bad it can be if Mibs's savvy goes off with all these people around, so to protect the family, he does whatever it takes to get everybody to a safer place.

    Fish, seeing me upset and not bothering to find out what might have happened, closed in on Will Junior and spun him around, clocking him hard and fast in the eye with his fist. (12.8)

    Protect the ones who are closest to you and they'll protect you when you need it too. The funny thing is that here Fish shows how reckless he can be. Fish is the kind of person that punches first and asks questions later—which says a lot about how far outside of society the Beaumonts have to be to survive.

    "There'll be none of that business with my sister," said Fish. (25.17)

    Here you can see the difference between Fish and Poppa very clearly: Poppa protects Mibs, but embraces who she is, while Fish protects Mibs and builds a wall around her to keep everyone else out.

    Momma's face drooped, the warm smile she'd greeted us with vanishing for a half second before being replaced with a very different kind of smile—the kind of smile born from love and sorrow and the desire to protect us all from our very worst fears. (34.21)

    Here the story gives us an interesting perspective on a character that we thought we knew already. Momma, who is perfect in every way, seems to falter—she seems to be unable to handle the situation properly, even if it is only for a few seconds. Or is it that Mibs is maturing in a new way, and is able to see the cracks in Momma's perfection?

    But sitting there with Poppa… I knew our swing was the World's Best. Ours was a real porch swing with a real porch to go with it, and a whole house full of love to hold it up. (37.4)

    Family means having a place to be genuine and real with one another. Here is a good comparison with Mibs in the beginning and a sign of how much her character has grown—remember that she almost seemed resentful of their position at the beginning of the book?

  • Loyalty

    Only Gypsy reacted to Miss Rosemary, because she was three years old and didn't know yet what the rest of us Beaumonts knew about secrets […]. (4.2)

    Mibs, Fish and Grandpa Bomba know exactly how special the next day will be, but can't let anyone know that they're anticipating it, because if something bad should happen… well, that would be bad for everyone.

    "I'm your friend, Mibs," Will Junior said with earnest. I looked across the table at him and his buttoned-up shirt. Will grinned at me then; smiling, he looked different somehow, more relaxed. (4.10)

    There's nothing quite like the feeling of knowing someone has your back, and once you feel is, you never want it to stop. Will is an interesting character in that even though he isn't that old or mature, he seems to know himself and what he wants fairly well. In some ways, Will Junior is a little bit like a puppy dog in his loyalty—it's always there for Mibs, even when she doesn't want it and when it's following her around.

    He finally managed to get the telephone away from the preacher's wife and scrambled over the top of Pastor Meeks's desk, knocking picture frames and paperweights onto the floor as he went. (7.11)

    Fish knows the meaning of loyalty to his sister and family, to the point that he's willing to mess up an entire church to protect them. This sense of loyalty ties in a bit with Fish's notions of family—which for Fish are probably one and the same. Can loyalty and family be separate things or ideas?

    Will Junior followed, nearly stepping on my heels. "Hey, slow down, Mibs! Wait for me." (8.10)

    Here's what we mean when we say that Will Junior's loyalty makes him into a bit of a lost puppy. Will is there for Mibs in spite of and despite the fact she doesn't want him to be. Mibs is… how do we say this… not quite as loyal to Will Junior at this point.

    "Mister… That's no way to treat a lady." Saying this, Lester shoved his plate aside and stood up, walking around the counter to help Lill gather her money. (19.31)

    Lester, in spite of his horribly mean tattoos, has backbone when he needs it most. Perhaps this is one of those times where we can see how loyalty can be a weakness. Sure Lester has started to become loyal to Lill and she's a positive force in his life, but at the same time we also can see that he must have been loyal to Carla and his mother—and both of them used that loyalty in nasty ways.

    Fish was standing in front of me now, acting like a shield between me and Will and Bobbi Meeks. (20.23)

    Fish shows us here what his kind of loyalty looks like: it's literally a shield to keep interlopers away. And because his outlooks on loyalty and family are one and the same, it shows that Fish feels that he needs to be the protector for his family and their secrets.

    I knew that it was my job to look after the grown-ups now. It was my job to keep them safe and out of trouble […]. (22.9)

    It seems that Mibs is starting to adopt Fish's point of view that family and loyalty are one and the same for the Beaumonts. This passage shows an interesting difference between Mibs and Fish, though—Mibs's definition of family is wider than Fish's, and it extends to Lester and Lill.

    Eventually, Lester turned to Lill like a beaten-down man asking for mercy. (28.34)

    Loyalties can be made to principles or people, but they are what you turn to when you have nothing left. Lester has already shown a few times that he is loyal to Lill, but has never actually said it out loud. What's intriguing about Lester is that he actually realizes in this moment that previously he has given his loyalty to people who didn't deserve it, and his desperation here rises from hope that Lill will be a person worth being loyal to.

    I felt bad, remembering my vow to keep Lill and Lester safe and out of trouble. But I couldn't sacrifice my own brother on that account; we couldn't not go back […]. (30.2)

    Hello, moral conundrum for Mibs. This is a growing-up moment for Mibs, as she decides between loyalty to the family she's made or the family she was born into. Ultimately, she chooses the family she was born into and hopes the family she's made will understand.

    Just before the sliding doors slid shut, Will caught my eye with his own quick wink. I realized I'd be seeing him again at church next Sunday, or I hoped I would […]. (34.39)

    Looks like Mibs has grown to include Will in the group of people that she is loyal to, which makes him (not in an icky way) a part of her family.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Thinking about the turtle and remembering the unusual way Gypsy had woken up as I'd stepped out of bed, a shaky and suspicious feeling started to gnaw down deep in my bones, a feeling that stuck with me the rest of the morning and continued to grow like smoke from a grassfire. (5.13)

    Mibs shows a huge character flaw here—or at least the start of one. This is where the rising action really starts in Savvy because Mibs lies to herself about what her savvy might be.

    I pretended not to notice the way Fish and Grandpa kept looking at me like I was some kind of dynamite, ready to blow at the next jerk or jog of the van. (5.22)

    There's a part of Mibs's character that knows deep down that her conclusions about her savvy from the morning are wrong and that her savvy actually hasn't made its appearance yet, but the way that the other two are staring at her makes Mibs self-conscious about it.


    Ignoring Bobbi and Will Junior, I headed toward the back of the bus, thinking I could hide pretty well back there until the bus got down to Kansas. (8.32)

    Mibs thinks she knows better than anybody else, and as such she believes that she doesn't need to listen to any of her friends and family, and that she can truly do something to help Poppa when she gets to Kansas. Some of this is true, but some of it is just a heap of lies our girl tells herself.

    "Was Bobbi thinking it?" "I have to clean up those scratches Bobbi gave Fish," I said, avoiding Will's question and starting to get up. (13.28)

    We can see Mibs's loyalty to her family coming out here. She clearly hasn't accepted Will into the circle of people she trusts, and outright ignores his question so she doesn't have to answer it. In fact, throughout the entire book, none of the Beaumont kids actually explain the savvy to anybody else, including Bobbi and Will Junior.

    Don't say anything is what he was telling me. Don't say anything! I glared at Fish. Caught between the two boys and between my own fears of sharing and not sharing secrets, I shrugged my shoulders with a dismissive jerk. "There's nothing more I can tell you," I said at last, turning back to Will.

    This is an interesting triangle: Will is curious and trying to be open to receiving new information, Fish is trying to shield the family still, and Mibs is caught in the middle. This gives an interesting new angle on Fish's concept of family and loyalty—lying and deceiving outsiders is necessary to protect the family.

    We kids promised Lill that we would call home as soon as we reached the motel, but I kept my fingers crossed behind my back. (22.10)

    Mibs and her friends are becoming quite good at deceiving the adults around them, however at this point it is not to protect the family so much as it is to protect the gang from getting caught by their parents.

    […] that girl was fast on her feet when it came to deceit, and I couldn't decide whether I admired her or felt sorry for her having such a skill. (23.25)

    Bobbi's a skilled liar, but Mibs isn't sure whether to be impressed or feel bad for the girl. Lying is a skill she's clearly felt the need to hone.

    Bobbi, Will, and Fish all sauntered into the room, looking like a bunch of cats who'd just finished feasting on an entire flock of canaries. Fortunately, Lill was so relieved to be off the phone, she didn't even notice. (23.34)

    Here's an interesting question for you: is Lill lying to herself here? Sure she's relieved to be done with a phone call she was more than likely dreading, but perhaps she wants to accept the lie that the kids told her because it was easier than truly facing up to the facts of the situation.

    It was with more than a touch of relief that we watched a white and blue police car fly past us on its way to someplace else and realized it wasn't ALERT! MISSING! ALERT! after us. But Lill and Lester hardly noticed a thing, so absorbed were they with each other. (28.2)

    Sure people get wrapped up in certain things from time to time, but is that really an excuse for being oblivious to the hard fact that they are transporting a bunch of kids that the police are looking for? We think Lester and Lill just might be deceiving themselves here.

  • Suffering

    […] when Momma dropped the phone with a rattling clatter and a single sob—perfectly devastated. She sank to the floor, looking for all the world as if she were staring through the checkered brown and blue linoleum to behold the burning hot-lava core at the very center of the Earth. (1.18)

    Question: Momma's savvy is being perfect at everything. Do you think that extends to her grief and how she navigates suffering?

    "So, where are you all from?" he asked with the sorry voice of a man who'd just lost the last of his pluck and knew it. (10.24)

    Poor Lester has never had it easy. Perhaps his plan is to simply make it through this trip and then quit his horrible job that he's no good at. We'll never know, fortunately, because Lill helps end his suffering.

    I hadn't cried once since Poppa's accident, but now that I'd started, there on that big pink bus, I couldn't stop. Everything felt broken and hopeless. What if this had all been for nothing? (13.2)

    Here is the rising action in the subplot of the book—the subplot being Mibs coming to terms with her savvy. And yet, it is a moment of necessary suffering in order for her to realize that she's been lying to herself up until this point.

    If I wasn't careful of Grandpa's feelings, his grief would make the ground rumble, buckling the sidewalks… I pretended not to notice the tears on Grandpa's cheeks as we walked on along the beach. But I held his hand tight and strong all the way back home. (14.4)

    The Beaumonts have to be especially careful with their savvies and letting their emotions get the better of them, or else terrible things can happen. This is a good example of why scumbling is so important, and shows what a good scumbler Grandpa has to be, considering his savvy. Suffering must be that much harder when you have to constantly worry about causing an earthquake by releasing your pain.

    I felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach and pulled out all my bones, turning me into a queasy, useless blob of Jell-O. (17.33)

    This is the point where the effects of Mibs's lying and deceit truly hit her, and she stops lying to herself. The only person who's making Mibs suffer here is Mibs.

    "He's going to be mad," said Will, and for the first time on that whole trip Will looked painfully, miserably unhappy. (24.18)

    Interestingly, Will's grief comes from disappointing the people that he loves most in the world. Do you think this is because Will Junior cares more about what other people think that he does about his own opinion of himself?

    But when that preacher reached his last Amen, sorrow and grief unleashed the savvy of young and old alike. (26.7)

    It has got to be really hard to scumble your way through suffering.

    I knew that, despite Fish's newfound confidence, the memories of his full-blown thirteenth-birthday hurricane would haunt him for a long, long time. (28.11)

    Deep suffering leaves scars, and not just the kind that shows up on your skin—emotional and behavioral suffering can leave emotional and behavioral scars. Perhaps that's part of the reason that Fish's concepts of loyalty and family are the way they are—because wants to spare his family from some of his suffering.

    I remembered again that this was all my fault, that we wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me and a savvy that had come and dropped me into hot water fast. (29.40)

    Mibs continually grieves: for herself, for her mistakes, and for the circumstances she's in. While she definitely has plenty to feel sad about—her dad's in a coma, after all—experiencing a whole lot of change at once can cause anyone to grieve.

    It wasn't pretty, delicate crying either. It was full-on, snot-dripping, chest-wheezing, jibber-jabber wailing. (33.1)

    Mibs is still attempting to keep up appearances here, at least in the sense that she realizes how out of control she is at the moment. Mibs, however, is luckier than many of her family members in the sense that she can break down like this without any of the nastier side effects. Will this perhaps make her better as a person in the long run, considering that she can always work through her emotions to the fullest, unlike the rest of her family who have to hold things back?

  • Perseverance

    At that moment, I knew exactly what I had to do—I just hadn't yet figured out how I was going to do it. (5.26)

    Mibs gives a very good example of perseverance here, and shows that it's a state of mind, rather than a thing that you do. All persevering is, really, is a refusal to quit—even if you're not sure what to do.

    I knew I was talking crazy… But I'd hitchhike if I had to. I'd walk. There was no other way around it… I had to leave and I had to do it right then and there. I had to find Poppa and I had to use my savvy to wake him up. (8.7)

    Sometimes perseverance is at the cost of ourselves, whether that be physically or emotionally. It's a drive that can come with very real costs. Mibs herself says it's a crazy idea to go to Salina, but perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds makes us root for her until the end.

    We were stowaways now, unless one of us got brave enough—or crazy enough—to climb down off that bus right in front of both the delivery-man and Miss Rosemary and ruin it for everyone. But nobody made a move to flee, and I was grateful for it. (8.45)

    There are two ways to read this part of the story: Do the other kids stay on the bus because they don't want to embarrass themselves in front of everyone at the church and get in trouble with Miss Rosemary? Or is it because of Mibs and knowing about her need to get to the hospital?

    I'm not sure what is was about my shy and shadowy Samson, but his touch always made a person feel more braced up inside. (13.4)

    This part introduces an interesting new angle on Samson—the fact that he seems to have gotten his savvy earlier than most people. On top of that, Samson's savvy, while calming and re-centering people, also aids in their ability to persevere in what they're doing. Things seem hopeless here, but Samson is able to help Mibs keep going.

    Bobbi didn't say anything, so I continued on with a little more backbone, lowering my shoulders an inch and sticking my head out of my shell. (25.49)

    Here's another question about what perseverance means: Does it mean going on even when the result might be bad or impossible to achieve? How about when it makes you do something potentially dangerous? Mibs shows us here that the persevering part of her character also makes her ignore her ingrained habits and find strength that she didn't know she had inside. Is that a good definition of perseverance—the strength to ignore what we think is the safe path to take?

    Since we'd left Lincoln, she'd been coaching him, giving Lester tips on how to talk to people and how to present himself like a businessman… Now it was her turn to fidget and fret. (27.6)

    Lill shows a particular kind of perseverance here, the waiting kind. Perseverance isn't really an action, it's a state of mind—Lill must persevere through the next few minutes even though it probably seems like hours, maintaining her faith in Lester no matter what happens during his sale.

    Will looked back at me, startled, and I kept my heart muscle strong… it wanted time to send down roots. (27.19)

    Mibs shows a new kind of maturity and perseverance—the kind that knows that it's best to wait, rather than jump in right away, and that speaks its own truth no matter how it impacts another person.

    I wouldn't let the voices of bullies or meanies or people who barely-hardly knew me work their way in to my brain and stick. (28.33)

    Let's just go ahead and say it: One of the most multifaceted parts of Mibs is her ability to persevere, and to do so in a variety of ways. Here she perseveres in accepting herself by refusing to let negative voices take up space in her head.

    "I just need to settle up with her, Lill. I just need to p-pay Carlene what I owe her from the B-Bibles and then I'm done, then I'm yours—if you'll have me, that is." (28.35)

    Go get what you want, Lester. This is what perseverance is really about: daring to try to achieve everything you want. It is an interesting turnaround for Lester, considering that at the beginning he was nearly ready to throw in the towel.

    "You never give up, Poppa, not ever. That's your savvy. You never, ever give up." (36.17)

    Sure Poppa may or may not have a "real" savvy, but we've seen that savvies are really just special skills that the Beaumonts have, and not giving up certainly makes Poppa special to Mibs.

  • Tradition

    […] we couldn't risk someone finding out, or getting hurt by sparks or storms if my brother lost control. (2.10)

    Tradition doesn't always have to be about the good things. Traditions are customs that pass from generation to generation, so what this means for the Beaumonts is that despite how subtle a savvy might be—like in Momma's case—they still have to carry on the tradition of hiding it.

    Momma made the whole family go to church in Hebron every Sunday despite any fears of savvy catastrophes […]. (2.19)

    Routines are important, even when magic is involved, and in the Beaumont family some things take precedence over the power of the savvies. For Momma, this means going to church. Does Momma do this just because she wants her children to grow up spiritually wealthy, or is it also because she wants to make sure that they have a time at least once a week to make the kids need to scumble?

    Grandpa had explained it to me years before… he held my hand in his knobby one and told me how our family's extraordinary talents were passed down from our kin. (14.1)

    Part of the tradition for the Beaumonts is that they have to tell the story of how their talents are passed down. This isn't unique to them, though, and lots of families have storytelling traditions. (Does yours?)

    So, when Will Junior asked me […]what made my family so special, I told him what my relations have been telling folk for generations when faced with questions that had to be answered. (14.8)

    Old habits die hard—even when you're trying to communicate. Tradition can be what keeps you going when times are tough, but it can be hard to realize when they're holding you back.

    Momma and Poppa always kept that jar up on the mantel, loosening the lid now and again to let the never-ending song fill the house. (14.21)

    Traditions can be like stepping into memories, especially if you do them the same way always. Perhaps this is their way of keeping Grandma Dollop alive, or at least close to them in their memories.

    Depending on the person and the savvy, it could take years to gain enough control to mingle easily with the rest of the world […] that's why […] homeschooling went way, way beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. (21.6)

    It's a tradition for the Beaumonts to be homeschooled, which also means learning to scumble. And in this way, scumbling is a tradition for their family, not just a necessity… though it's definitely a necessity too.

    "Were you looking for trouble like your old man used to get into? Don't try to be like me, Will. You're too smart for that." (32.17)

    Here's an interesting new perspective on Will Junior: Will idolizes his father so much that he's willing to do reckless things in order to be like Bill—even if those things aren't good ideas in the first place. That's a new angle on the concept of tradition.

    "Savvy birthdays always tend to cause a rumpus." (34.16)

    It's almost sadly fatalistic for the Beaumonts that every few years they have to learn to deal with a new savvy from one of their (multiple) teenagers. This seems like it could be a kind of stressful tradition.

    He held the glass jar with its faded label tucked into the crook of his arm, and I knew immediately which one it was. (34.17)

    Tradition helps you persevere when the suffering seems like it's too much to bear, it's the spark of familiarity and normalcy when the chaos swirls around you. That's why Grandpa Bomba brings the jar with them to the hospital—it's the jar that holds Momma and Poppa's song, and it's meant to be a symbol of what holds the family together.

    "A year or two to gain your strength and learn how to scumble your savvy certainly won't hurt you, Mibs," Momma had said. "After that you'll be ready to take on the world." (37.24)

    Mibs, as is traditional for a teenager, believe that she knows better than her mother… and her mother is certain she knows better than Mibs. This is like is a universal mother-daughter tradition, and it adds a truthfulness to the story and helps readers relate to it.

  • The Supernatural

    When Grandpa wasn't a grandpa and was just instead a small-fry, hobbledehoy boy blowing out thirteen dripping candles on a lopsided cake, his savvy hit him hard and sudden… and the entire state of Idaho got made. (1.6)

    If we go with the idea that savvies are a metaphor for the changes that kids go through in adolescence, what does it mean that Grandpa made Idaho?

    But it wasn't peaches, tomatoes, or pickles that our grandma canned, it was radio waves. (4.15)

    Back in the day, it sounds (no pun intended) like this would be a really useful savvy, especially since you couldn't record things off of the radio.

    That was when that little angel turned its head, twirled its tail, and said, "She's really very lonely, you know […]." (6.21)

    This is a big learning moment for Mibs, despite the fact that she lies to herself about it for several more chapters. It's really a metaphor for the changes that come as you grow older: as much as you learn about them when you're young, or see them happen to others, you never really know what's going to happen until it happens to you.

    Storm subsiding, he grabbed Will by the wrist to behold the drawing of the sun inked in blue on his palm… Then, understanding that my upset must have something to do with the unexpected things that happen when a Beaumont turns thirteen, Fish did what he had to do. (12.14)

    This example shows an important aspect of the Beaumont family and about Fish in particular: the savvy changes make it so that you have to be willing to accept something strange at a moment's notice. Fish seems to be particularly smart and adept at recognizing and dealing with strange things as they happen, but he's also gone through the strange changes of getting a savvy himself.

    "A savvy's not a sickness or a disease, Mibs," Grandpa told me. "It's not magic or sorcery, either. Your savvy's in your blood. It's an inheritance, like your brown eyes or your grandma's long toes or her talent for dancing to polka music." (14.3)

    Pay attention, Shmoopsters: this is where savvies come from.

    Even the stodgiest old codger would dance a jig if Dinah asked. Momma said that Aunt Dinah had stopped a bank robber once, just by telling him to sit down and be still until the police arrived. (14.15)

    The interesting thing about Poppa is that he actually manages to resist Dinah's savvy—she tells him to go away and leave her and her sister (Momma) alone, but Poppa's savvy (his ability to persevere) counteracts Dinah's and he manages to win Momma's hand. In that way, savvies act with each other the way that regular abilities do as well: if one ability is stronger than another, the stronger one wins.

    Controlled. Fish had controlled his outburst—aimed it even…Fish took a step back in surprise and his storm shut down faster than it had started… He appeared to have finally found the right color paint to complement his savvy. (21.12)

    Half the battle of puberty and adolescence is coming to terms with all the weird stuff happening to you and getting a handle on it. And guess what Fish just accomplished? The same thing, it just gets illustrated through his savvy.

    "Where's my brother?" I demanded, trying to shut out everything except Carlene's voice inside my head […]. (31.15)

    What's very interesting about this moment is that Mibs is actually using her savvy and controlling it—which means she's scumbling way earlier than most of her relatives manage to. You go, girl.

    […] the city was obviously still struggling to recover from Rocket's electric wake. I swallowed hard; I'd never seen Rocket make such a mess. (34.10)

    Rocket is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Fish when it comes to scumbling. Can you say late bloomer?

    Maybe it was Samson, or my words or my wish… or a miracle. Or maybe… nature was only doing what nature does and it was simply Poppa's time to start healing and waking up. We could never really know. Even with a savvy, some things always stay a mystery. (36.23)

    A wise person once said that magic is only science that hasn't been explained yet. What do you think wakes Poppa up?

  • Innocence and Loss of Innocence

    Like so many things, a savvy could take years to tame, and Momma and Poppa said the ups and downs of growing up only added to the challenge. (2.10)

    Hearing something and learning it yourself are two different things. There are some lessons you have to actually go through, and cannot learn from other people's mistakes, which is totally the case when it comes to getting a savvy.

    And while I was sure meat loaf could be a powerful thing, especially if it had a lot of ketchup and the onions were chopped up real fine, I knew that tonight, for the Beaumont family, meat loaf couldn't do squat. (3.17)

    Losing innocence is unfortunately a final thing—once it happens there is no going back, and nothing that can make things as they were again. This is a moment when Mibs starts to learn real sorrow, and that life is not always as simple as we'd like.

    Suddenly, as I looked at those teenaged girls in their teenaged clothes, I felt younger than twelve-turning-thirteen… I realized that I had just turned into a teenager myself, and there were more changes coming in my life that didn't have anything to do with my savvy. (6.16)

    Life itself is full of change, and even though you have superpowers you still (unfortunately) have to go through puberty. This is where we see Mibs's first glimpse of losing her own innocence, and it's perfectly described—because you never are aware of your own innocence until it's gone.

    I couldn't understand any of it. Nothing about what was happening felt right. What had happened to my savvy? (7.23)

    We know that Mibs is currently lying to herself about what her savvy is. Might she be doing so in hopes of holding on to some of her innocence that she knows that she's lost?

    If that angel hadn't been whispering in my head, telling me how Bobbi was just as nervous as the rest of us, I would've thought that she had no cares at all, that she was just a powerful sixteen-year-old-muscle. (9.2)

    The benefit of losing innocence is that you gain knowledge in return, and that's what Mibs is seeing here: she's able to have new perspective on Bobbi, and then get a new understanding of Bobbi and why Bobbi is the way that she is.

    But as I grew up, I began to understand that a savvy is just a know-how of a different sort. (14.6)

    A loss of innocence can also be called a growing in understanding, since innocence is really just a lack of knowledge and experience.

    "But I'll tell you a secret about sixteen… Sixteen can feel older and scarier than forty-two, which is what I am. I think Bobbi's just feeling sharp-edged right now, so don't you mind her." (16.15)

    The knowledge that Bobbi's gained since losing her own innocence can have a major effect on a person—it can make them clam up, or become snooty and bossy, or even sad. That's why sixteen feels older than forty-two—you gain a bunch of knowledge really quickly, and don't yet have years to live with it.

    Maybe some good would come from this big mess I'd made after all. (24.34)

    For Mibs, this is a moment that shows how much knowledge she's gained, and how much of her innocence she has lost. Here Mibs is willing to admit to herself how much trouble she's caused, but isn't willing to let herself be depressed and unwilling to persevere.

    I thought about her question for a long time… If someone had said those same words to me yesterday I might have shrugged them off. But a lot can change in a day. (25.58)

    There's no set pace for losing innocence, and Mibs is totally right: a lot can change in a day.

    When I walked out of that church in Hebron, I was running toward Poppa, but maybe—maybe—I was running away from something else. (26.12)

    Being able to recognize one's own action is a sign of true growth. We think (to put it in blunt terms) that what Mibs was running away from was herself: her fears for her family, the changes that come with her savvy, and the knowledge and responsibilities that arrive when you become a teenager.