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The Second Life of Abigail Walker

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  480 ratings  ·  146 reviews
Is it possible to start afresh when you’re thoroughly weighted down?

Seventeen pounds. That’s the difference between Abigail Walker and Kristen Gorzca. Between chubby and slim, between teased and taunting. Abby is fine with her body and sick of seventeen pounds making her miserable, so she speaks out against Kristen and her groupies—and becomes officially unpopular. Embraci...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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69th out of 116 books — 1,106 voters
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Community Reviews

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There are many facets to the experience of reading a book beloved by a friend. There are probably others that these, but the ones I can think of right now are the friend, the friendship, society, the book itself, and the reader. The experience of reading seems tied up in all of those parts, but also, I think they are all individual experiences. I read this book because it is beloved by a friend, and I love the way it lets me know that friend better and what it says about our friendship that she...more
I can't quite put my finger on why I liked this book so well. I shouldn't have, really; I'm wary of books about mean girls, which are often uncomfortable to read until they sometimes offer an easy answer; of books about overweight girls, which usually seem to struggle with being both body-image-positive and you'll-be-happier-if-you-lose-weight. This book ought to be "doing too much", because it is about bullying, body image, parent/child relations, post-traumatic stress disorder related to frien...more
Wandering Librarians
There's a confession I'd like to make, I know that Frances O'Roarke Dowell is an amazing writer but I always end up finishing her books with a bit of a miffed feeling. There seems to be always a bit too much going on, or a theme that just doesn't need to be there, or an aspect that is a little jarring.

I really thought that the whole aspect with Abigail's different issues - being bullied, weight, discovery of self - trying to resolve themselves was quite well done. The evolution of her friendship...more
Abby has always been on the outskirts of her group of friends, considered the fat one who could be teased endlessly about her weight. She has to be careful not to give her real opinion and to always toe the line set by the group leader. Privately, she considers them to be “medium girls” and nothing special, but they are her friends. As Abby starts to investigate the abandoned lot across from her house, she gets gently bitten by a fox. It is from that point on that she is no longer content to be...more
Sixth grader Abigail (Abby) Walker is desperately trying to fit in with a group of girls she thinks of as "mediums" because of their clothing size and their safe, vanilla attitudes. But because of her extra weight, 17 pounds more than the others, and possibly because of her desperate need to belong, the girls--mostly Kristen and Georgia--make her the butt of jokes. She feels pressured to go along with whatever they say, until one day she's had enough and simply disagrees with a cruel, clueless r...more
A sweet little ambling story. It didn't fit together very well with lots of out-of-left-field-feeling parts and characters, but the girl was written spot-on. There was a sentence that was something like, 'she didn't want to start crying, so she kept chewing.' Oh, Abby, I know. I know. There was another part where she looks down at herself and sees her doughy thighs and the roll around her stomach. I was happily unselfconscious of my body until 4th grade, when tiny Vanessa (a classmate kind of li...more
This book was disappointing. It's told from the point of view from a young girl who is overweight and is bullied about it in school. There is also a fox, who has certain magical abilities, which were not explained very well in the story.

The main character seemed to have too much self pity, some parts were left unexplained, and some of the characters seemed to act much different than people their age should have.

(view spoiler)...more
As a rule, I don't enjoy realistic fiction. Especially when it is "issue" centered.
This would normally be a 1 or 2-star book for me. However, the fox character that creates the extended metaphor enhanced this reading experience. O'Roark Dowell hooked me when she began the book, "the fox had been stepping into stories since the beginning of time. Important stories, everyday stories, stories that only matter to one or two people. She sniffed stories out. When she smelled one that interested her ....more
I would have liked the book better without the magical fox. Sometimes magical creatures can seem believable and add to the story, but not in this case.
Sixth grader Abby she feels lucky when a group of "medium popular" girls take her into their group after her best friend moves away. However, Abby quickly realizes that she is on the bottom of their social ladder, always teetering between being in and being shut out. The fact that Abby is slightly overweight gives them fuel to constantly taunt her. When she decides one day that she has had enough of their cruelty, Abby walks away from the clique. Though turning her back on the girls results in e...more
Middle school girls with medium lives can be very, very mean. It's subtle and hard to prove sometimes but when you are caught in their web, it can be an intense and painful problem that no one else can help you with .... maybe.

This is the world of eleven year old Abigail Walker known to her classmates as Tubby Abby. This is the world where no one sits with her on the bus, and her parents try to get her to eat one slice of cheese pizza instead of three slices of sausage pizza.

Abby is drowning he...more
Maddie D
I am currently reading the Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances Dowell. I'm not very far in this book, but so far I think it's very interesting. It's about a young girl who's going into middle school that is from New York. Her new house is supposed to have a hidden diamond in it somewhere. So Abigail starts telling everyone at school that there's supposed to be a diamond hidden in her house, but nobody listens and she just gets made fun at even more. I think the book is interesting be...more
Nov 01, 2012 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 4th-6th grade
A blend of realism and fantasy about bullying, and learning to like yourself and know more of who you are. I liked Dowell's writing and the progression of the story. The ties between the war veteran and Lewis and Clark expedition were interesting, but there wasn't an explanation of why the vet became interested in the expedition to begin with. I'm also not sure about the fox and his narrative, but it worked fairly well. It gave an air of magic to a story in which Abby changes subtlely. She disco...more
Sep 22, 2012 Becky rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I really liked Frances O'Roark Dowell's newest book, the Second Life of Abigail Walker. It didn't wow me as much as Kristin Levine's The Lions of Little Rock OR Rebecca Stead's Liar & Spy, but, it was a gentle, satisfying exploration of first friendship. The heroine, Abigail Walker, does not have many friends, and what "friends" she did have once her true best friend moved away the year before, she's since lost because she was brave enough to stand up for herself. (Her new "friends" liked to...more
Laura Phelps
I am quite torn about this blend of realism and fantasy. On the one hand I really loved Abby, the slightly overweight main character who suffers bullying at the hands of her 6th grade peers (and her parents, really). Her ability to deal and find friendship elsewhere is both believable and quite impressive. Alongside the story of Abby is the more fantastical story of fox - an animal character who brings Abby together with an Iraq war vet suffering from PTSD. There were a few pieces of this which...more
Outstanding. Dowell gives us a coming-of-age story in the truest sense and one that is achingly authentic. Lonely chubby Abby, adrift after her best friend moves away, wanders into the circle of the "middle" girls. Eleven-year-old mean girls are just as nasty as older mean girls and Abby struggles to please them as well as her parents who are worried about Abby's weight and social standing. Abby knows the consequences of going against the popular group and her first tentative steps toward standi...more
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Samantha Reviews
This review originally appeared at

I have read two other books by Frances O'Roark Dowell and I thought they were great (The Secret Language of Girls and The Kind of Friends We Used To Be). When I picked up this book at the library a week ago, I had high expectations. Overall, this book was...decent. I'm glad to have read it would probably wouldn't read it again.

The Second Life of Abigail Walker has many good qualities. I really liked the main character Abigail and I enj...more
I couldn't quite give this 3 stars. I wanted to like this more than I did. I appreciated the lesson abby learns about the medium girls, that those who try so hard to make others miserable are really the miserable ones. However, there were some things about this book that just didn't quite make sense or sit right with me. The fox, for one, kind of confused me. I feel like kids might get confused about this element too. Maybe this book is supposed to be part of the magical realism genre but I thin...more
It seemed like this book couldn't decide what it wanted to be: bullying? fantasy? PTSD? It just didn't meld that together for me. The saddest part was that Abigail seemed so detached from her parents. I expected some resolution with her dad, which didn't happen. Why didn't she just tell her parents the truth about some simple things Kristen did to her? How did she obtain all of her cached candy? The fox was a weird dimension; what effect did its bite really have? Was there really a fox? I think...more
Worth reading, but I felt like it was missing pieces. It had the potential to be really good, but maybe caved to the pressure to be a "small" book. I wonder if the pieces that would have really filed out the story were edited out or never there to begin with.
I was really enjoying this book right up until the end. I felt like it just petered out. I was intrigued by the mixing of realistic fiction with fantasy/folktale (with the fox & crow) and was hoping for an explanation or inference of the significance of the fox & crow, but I never saw it.

Kids will identify with Abby having to deal with 'mean girls'. I love how she develops the self-confidence to accept/love herself as she is - despite her awful, clueless parents - and how she makes bett...more
Eleven year old Abigail discovers herself in this story of the bullies she must defend against, the kids who really are her friends, and a young boy met in her wandering in nearby woods whose father is struggling with PTSD and who needs her help. A fox enters the story too, adding a bit of magical realism, and Dowell puts it all together beautifully. What a strong main character Dowell gives us in this story, one to offer those middle graders who are struggling to find a place in their worlds th...more
Wendy Loewenstein
Fitting in is tough. Especially in middle school. When Abby's best friend, Claudia moves away, she struggles to find a friend who accepts her. She tries to fit in with the "medium" girls, but Abby finds that she can't be herself around them. Through a random encounter with a fox and a home-schooled boy named Anders and his family, Abby realizes that it is okay to be who you are and she makes new friends who accept her. However, not without the "mediums" making life difficult. This is a good read...more
BAYA Librarian
In spite of the fact she is seventeen pounds overweight Abigail manages to fit in with some of the more popular girls. That is until the day she sticks up for herself. Kristen is determined to make Abigail pay, and not only ostracizes her at school but stalks her in the neighborhood. While escaping from the mean girls Abigail meets Anders. Anders lives on a small horse farm with his father and grandmother. His father has PTSD and is very concerned about safely and doesn’t allow Anders much free...more
Jo Sorrell
Is it possible to start afresh when you’re thoroughly weighted down?Seventeen pounds. That’s the difference between Abigail Walker and Kristen Gorzca. Between chubby and slim, between teased and taunting. Abby is fine with her body and sick of seventeen pounds making her miserable, so she speaks out against Kristen and her groupies—and becomes officially unpopular. Embracing her new status, Abby heads to an abandoned lot across the street and crosses an unfamiliar stream that leads her to a boy...more
Joelle Anthony
I quite enjoyed it while I read it, but on reflection, I do think there was a awful lot going on, which made it difficult to resolve. I think the parents are so awful that if not a resolution, there has to be a confrontation. What little there was was told after the fact in an off-hand way that was a big let-down. Also, there was a great set-up for a confrontation with her dad that went nowhere and was never mentioned again.

I see some people weren't too fond of the fox's story element. I actuall...more
"How could she explain ... the terrible things that girls did? The secret, down-low, parents-never-figure-it-out, terrible things that girls did to you if you were too fat or too skinny or had pimples or wore the wrong kind of jeans." Abigail's best friend, Claudia, has moved away and she is looking for a new friend. But she makes a dreadful mistake the day she agrees to have lunch with Kristen and her crew. From that moment on, Abby is the target of derision. Until one day, after a strange enco...more
Ms. Yingling
Abby is having trouble at home and at school. At home, her mother is distracted reading history and her father is either working or harping on Abby's weight. At school, her frenemies Kristen and Georgia subtly torture her-- calling her names, stealing her lunch out of her locker, and going behind her back to arrange get togethers with Abby's mother, so that Abby has to be with them. When she is bitten gently by a fox in an abadoned lot, Abby takes this as a sign that she needs to change. She tak...more
When Abby's best friend moved away, she moved to the "medium girls" table. This, as it turns out, was not a good decision. The medium girls are in the middle of everything. They are middle weight, middle popularity, middle everything. Abby is not middle. She outweighs her so-called friends by 17 pounds, and that weight difference makes Abby a target of bullying and teasing by her chosen circle. Things change one day after Abby has an encounter with a red fox in a neighboring lot. The fox gently...more
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What did You Think of this Book? 1 3 Jan 07, 2013 12:14PM  
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Frances O'Roark Dowell is an author of middle-grade fiction. Her books have received numerous awards, including an Edgar (Dovey Coe), the William Allan White Award (Dovey Coe), the Christopher Award (Shooting the Moon), the Voya Book Award (Where I'd Like to Be), and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Fiction, Honor Book (Shooting the Moon). Dowell has an MFA in Creative...more
More about Frances O'Roark Dowell...
The Secret Language of Girls (The Secret Language of Girls, #1) Shooting the Moon The Kind of Friends We Used To Be Ten Miles Past Normal Dovey Coe

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