Quill and Quire

Canada's magazine of book news and reviews

The Encyclopedia of Me

by Karen Rivers

E is for excellent. As in, the excellent new novel by Victoria’s Karen Rivers.

Inspired by an old set of books that clutter her family’s living room, “almost-thirteen-year-old” Isadora Aaron-Martin (a.k.a. Tink) decides to write her own encyclopedia, complete with footnotes.

With her keen insights, acronyms, self-made language, and no-nonsense attitude, Tink is completely endearing. She juggles a complex family dynamic, a changing friendship with her popularity-obsessed best friend, and an unexpected kiss from the cute blue-haired skater boy next door, while independently seeking out adventure and bravely trying new things. 

Always in the background of Tink’s story is the effect of her older brother Seb’s autism on her family. Placed in the role of “peacekeeper,” Tink goes to extremes to keep her parents from fighting and her brother calm, even if her own best interests are cast aside. Her distracted parents inadvertently neglect her emotional needs, yet ground her over the slightest infraction. Having been bullied most of her life over her biracial heritage, Tink puts herself down for not being as good-looking as her twin brothers or as “glam” as her best friend.

With humour and sensitivity, Rivers explores the complexities of the emotionally confusing tween years. While there may seem to be a lot here for one novel, readers will feel a real kinship to Tink as she steps out of her comfort zone and reaches toward being the person she wishes to be.