Dinah seems much younger than her 15 years. She’s innocent and hopeful, someone who always sees the bright side of any situation. She and her best friend Skint help out at church as part of the “Girls’ Friendly Society” (even though Skint’s a boy) in their small Maine town. But as Skint likes to remind her, a lot of complicated problems—like hunger, poverty, mental illness and abuse—are everywhere, including right in their own backyard.
And Skint should know: His father suffers from early-onset senility, and his mother, desperate to keep her husband out of an institution, is at the end of her rope. Unlike Dinah, Skint is cynical and angry about the world around him, and he often grows frustrated with Dinah’s inability or unwillingness to comprehend the extent of the world’s troubles.
As a long Maine winter takes its toll on the town’s residents, Dinah becomes increasingly aware of the problems that consume Skint. When she must change her own opinion of her best friend, Dinah finds herself feeling unexpectedly unmoored, “like a child whose balloon has come undone from her wrist.”
N. Griffin’s debut novel raises issues (such as religious faith, social responsibility and poverty) not commonly found in young adult fiction. In the end, Griffin encourages readers to consider important questions: Is it possible to see the troubles that surround us without succumbing to despair? And what is left when loving someone is not enough to save them? Simultaneously quirky, funny, thoughtful and sad, The Whole Stupid Way We Are will remain with readers long after its heartbreaking final pages.