Cover of How We Roll. Two teens, seen from behind. The boy is in a wheelchair and has no legs. The girl holds a skateboard and wears a ball cap.

About the Book

Title: How We Roll
Published: 2018

Cover Story: Giant Teen Backs
Drinking Buddy:
They Grow On You
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (sexuality, language)
Talky Talk:
Oh, Brothah
Bonus Factors:
Autism Spectrum, Alopecia, Nice Popular Girls
Bromance Status:
I Don’t Normally Ask For a Sequel…

Cover Story: Giant Teen Backs

At least this way, we get a good idea of what Quinn and Jake look like, while still getting to fill in their faces ourselves. And I dig the funky rainbow. The cover blurb is crap, however. This isn’t a story of love, but friendship.

The Deal:

In eighth grade, Quinn was an outgoing, basketball playing, skateboarding tomboy, well-liked by her friends in her Colorado middle school. That is until she begin to show symptoms of alopecia. Within a matter of months she’d lost every hair on her scalp. She became a bald thirteen-year-old girl. But hey, you know how kind middle school kids are.

Once popular, Quinn soon becomes an object of pity and ridicule. When she’s the victim of a vicious and untrue slut shaming rumor, she becomes fed up with everything.

But there may be an out. Quinn’s brother Julius is on the autism spectrum. Really on the spectrum. And there’s a wonderful school in Massachusetts equipped to deal with his special needs. Quinn says good riddance to the mountains as her family attempts to start a new life on the East Coast.

With the help of a wig, Quinn is surprised to find herself running with the cool crowd. Maybe this is a fresh start after all. Unless, of course, that wig should ever come off and people see her shame.

And then there’s that poor kid Jake. Once one of the most promising football players in the state, he lost both his legs in a snowmobiling accident. Now sullen and angry, Jake wants nothing to do with anyone, including his brother Nick, who caused the wreck.

But Quinn knows what it’s like to lose a part of oneself, and Jake’s problems kind of put hers to shame. Great friendships have been built on less.

Drinking Buddy: They Grow On You

Two pints of beer cheersing

I instantly liked Quinn, knowing that the second anyone found out she was bald, she was going to be torn apart by wolves. Jake took longer to grow on me. He’s got the tragic chip on his shoulder, accusing Quinn of staring and bitterly ripping into his brother, who wants nothing more than forgiveness. But how do you forgive your brother for costing you your legs in a drunken snowmobile crash?

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sexuality, language)

As stated above, this was not a romance, but the story of two kids dealing with a loss and a society that is cruel. Quinn suddenly feels less self pity about her baldness when she hears Jake talk about his destroyed football career and his above the knee amputations.

Actually, most of the action here comes from Quinn’s brother, Julian. Julian is obsessed with the Guinness Book of Records and gets it in his head he’d like to break a record of his own. Let’s just hope he doesn’t break his neck while he’s at it.

The real knife in the gut scene happened at the beginning, when Quinn was back in Colorado. Already socially on thin ice because of her hair, a jerk friend of hers starts telling people that he got ‘head from The Head.’ And people believe him. The out of state move couldn’t come fast enough for Quinn.

Talky Talk: Oh, Brothah

Okay, so they’re in Massachusetts. And everyone speaks with that twang. But the author actually writes like that, as in ‘Tell Cahmen to pahk the cah.’ Nope. You can’t do that. Whether the accent is Ozark, Italian, Puerto Rican, or whatever, you don’t write it phonetically. You have to make the readers hear it in their head without spelling it out. This got really distracting.

That being said, there were two genuinely nice teen voices. A couple of kids who’ve been hurt and can find comfort in their mutual pain and plans for revenge on those who’ve wronged them.

Bonus Factor: The Autism Spectrum

The multi-colored jigsaw pieces that represent autism awareness

Quinn’s brother Julius is severely autistic. He has obessions. He has routines. He only eats white food on Wednesdays and only foods that start with F on Fridays. He watches his world records video over and over and over. And when things become disorganized, he gets upset. He gets violent. He’s broken his own nose before.

Quinn loves him, of course she does. But when you have a family member who has such problems and who takes up so much of your parents’ time…well, a girl can kind of start feeling ignored, you know? Especially when her problems aren’t exactly small.

Bonus Factor: Alopecia

A girl looking in horror at a hairbrush filled with an unusual amount of hair

When Quinn was thirteen, her hair began to fall out. She has alopecia, which means her body’s immune system had started attacking her own hair follicles. She’s lucky that it only hit her scalp, some people lose their eyebrows and lashes as well.

Thanks to some nice wigs, no one at her new school knows she has no hair. But how long can she keep up the ruse? Her head gets incredibly itchy after wearing the wig all day. And if she wants to play basketball, how on earth can she keep her wig on? And what about the sleepover she was just invited to? She has a second chance as being ‘normal.’ She better not blow this.

Bonus Factor: Nice Popular Girls

Karen, Gretchen, and Regina at the mall (Mean Girls)

Spoiler alert

One of Quinn’s popular new friends is Jake’s ex. And when she realizes that Quinn is getting so close to her old boyfriend, she starts acting weird. I could totally tell where it was going. She’d pretend to be okay with it, but she’d find out Quinn’s secret and then tell the whole school.

Nope. She realized she had no right to be possessive, and when Quinn’s friends find out about her alopecia, they totally support her and keep her secret.

Nice little change of pace there.

Bromance Status: I Don’t Normally Ask For a Sequel…

But c’mon, we have to see where this friendship is going. These kids are almost too cute together.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or Bruins tickets.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.