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Frazzled

Written by: Booki Vivat
Published: September 27, 2016

Summary

As we delve into Abbie's world, we quickly realize she's in what she terms the "Middle" years. Not just because she's in middle school, but also because she feels perpetually stuck in the middle of everything. She's the middle child in her family, with an overachieving older brother and an adorably annoying younger sister. School doesn't offer her much respite either; she's not a standout student nor is she at the bottom of the academic totem pole.

The story takes off with Abbie's transition from elementary to middle school. It's a change she dreads, mostly because she's uncertain about what to expect. She's gripped by the fear of the unknown, from where she'll sit at lunch to what elective she should pick. While her friends seem to have everything figured out, Abbie feels directionless.

One of the most significant sources of stress for Abbie is her lack of a "thing." Everyone around her seems to have a clear passion or skill, something that defines them. Her best friends, Maxine and Logan, for example, are super into theater and tech club, respectively. But Abbie? She's yet to discover her calling, making her feel even more out of place.

Abbie's journey through the chaos of middle school is punctuated with amusing incidents. From lunchroom drama and an unexpected alliance with a previous bully to the angst of selecting the right elective (lamenting why "lunch" isn't one of the options), Abbie's days are anything but dull. These humorous episodes, combined with Booki Vivat's lively illustrations, bring a sense of lightness to the challenges Abbie faces.

However, beneath the comedic elements, there are deeper lessons at play. Abbie learns the importance of self-acceptance. She discovers that it's okay not to have everything figured out and that everyone, at some point or another, feels frazzled. It's a lesson in resilience, understanding that life is filled with ups and downs, but it's how we respond to them that truly defines us.

Another significant theme is the value of friendships. Despite their differences and the occasional squabbles, Abbie, Maxine, and Logan stick together. They support each other through thick and thin, showcasing the true essence of friendship. Their bond serves as a reminder that, no matter how tumultuous life gets, having someone by your side makes it a lot more bearable.

As the story progresses, Abbie takes a proactive approach to her problems. She launches a campaign for a new elective choice that would cater to students like her, who feel lost amidst the offered options. This endeavor, though fraught with challenges, gives Abbie a newfound sense of purpose. It also earns her admiration from unexpected quarters, further boosting her confidence.

By the end of the book, Abbie hasn't figured out everything, and that's okay. She's learned to embrace the uncertainty, understanding that life is a journey, and it's alright to be a work in progress. Her perspective shift—from viewing the middle as a tedious waiting place to seeing it as an opportunity for growth—is truly commendable.

Final Thoughts

"Frazzled" by Booki Vivat is not just a story about middle school. It's a tale of self-discovery, resilience, and the beauty of friendship. Through Abbie Wu's endearing character, readers are reminded that it's okay to be imperfect and that everyone has their moments of feeling "frazzled." The book's humor, combined with its heartfelt messages, makes it a must-read for anyone navigating the challenges of growing up.

10 Big Ideas

1. Embracing the Middle

The concept of being "stuck in the middle" isn't just about age or school grade. It's a metaphorical space many of us occupy at different stages in life, feeling neither here nor there. Abbie Wu's journey teaches us that the middle is not a space of insignificance but an opportunity to grow, learn, and discover one's true self.

2. The Value of Authentic Friendships

Abbie's close bond with Maxine and Logan underscores the importance of genuine friendships. Even when the world seems chaotic, having steadfast friends can provide solace and understanding. Their unwavering support for one another, despite occasional differences, demonstrates the power of true camaraderie.

3. It's Okay Not to Have a "Thing"

Modern society often pressures us to have a niche or specialization—our "thing." Abbie's distress over not having one is relatable. However, the story reminds us that life isn't about labels. It's okay to be multifaceted and to take time to discover what truly resonates with us.

4. Humor as a Coping Mechanism

Throughout her middle school challenges, Abbie often employs humor to deal with situations. This lighthearted approach doesn't just make for amusing anecdotes; it showcases humor's power as a coping mechanism, allowing individuals to navigate complex emotions and situations.

5. The Courage to Initiate Change

Abbie's campaign for a new elective epitomizes proactive problem-solving. Instead of resigning to the status quo, she gathers the courage to create change. This initiative serves as inspiration for readers, signaling that even small efforts can lead to significant outcomes.

6. Self-Acceptance Above All

The narrative underscores the paramount importance of self-acceptance. Abbie's realization that she doesn't need to fit into predefined molds is empowering. Embracing oneself, flaws and all, paves the way for genuine happiness and contentment.

7. Everyone Feels "Frazzled" Sometimes

Feeling overwhelmed isn't unique to Abbie. Everyone, regardless of age or circumstance, has moments of uncertainty and stress. Recognizing this universal experience can foster empathy and make us feel less isolated during challenging times.

8. The Journey Over Destination

By the book's conclusion, Abbie hasn't figured everything out—and that's perfectly fine. The emphasis is on the journey, the experiences, the lessons learned along the way, rather than a clear end point. Life is an ongoing process, and there's beauty in the journey itself.

9. Taking Risks and Facing Fears

From confronting bullies to initiating school campaigns, Abbie's actions are punctuated by moments of bravery. These instances remind us of the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones, taking risks, and facing our fears head-on.

10. Growth is a Continuous Process

Abbie's middle school years are a microcosm of life's larger journey. There are ups and downs, moments of clarity and confusion. Yet, through it all, growth is continuous. We're always evolving, learning, and becoming better versions of ourselves, irrespective of age or circumstance.

5 Exercises

1. The "Middle" Journal

Objective: To identify and embrace your current "middle" and find the opportunities within it.

  • Find a quiet space and take a few minutes to reflect on where you feel "stuck in the middle" in your life.
  • Journal about this "middle" space. Describe the challenges, feelings, and uncertainties associated with it.
  • Now, switch your perspective. Write down any potential opportunities or lessons this "middle" might be offering you.
  • End the exercise by noting three actionable steps you can take to make the most of this "middle" phase.
  • Repeat this exercise whenever you feel caught in between stages in life.
2. Friendship Appreciation Day

Objective: To recognize and express gratitude for the authentic friendships in your life.

  • Choose a day to be your "Friendship Appreciation Day."
  • On this day, reach out to three friends who've been supportive, understanding, and genuine.
  • Write each of them a heartfelt letter or message, expressing your gratitude and sharing a memorable moment you've shared.
  • Commit to doing something special with them in the near future.
  • Reflect on the joy and comfort these friendships bring into your life.
3. Discovering Your "Thing"

Objective: To explore and identify passions, interests, or hobbies you might not have considered before.

  • Make a list of five activities or hobbies you've never tried but have always been curious about.
  • Pick one from the list and commit to trying it out for a month.
  • Document your journey—note the challenges, the joys, and any moments of discovery.
  • At the end of the month, reflect on the experience. Is this a potential new "thing" for you?
  • If not, choose another activity from your list and repeat the process. Remember, the journey is as important as the destination.
4. Humor Diary

Objective: To cultivate a sense of humor as a way to cope with daily stresses and challenges.

  • For a week, carry a small notebook with you everywhere.
  • Every time something amusing happens or you hear a joke, write it down.
  • At the end of the week, read through your entries and reflect on how these humorous moments made you feel.
  • Challenge yourself to find humor in unexpected places, especially during challenging times.
  • Continue this practice, and over time, you'll find yourself naturally adopting a lighthearted approach to life.
5. Small Acts, Big Changes

Objective: To recognize the power of small actions in creating meaningful change.

  • Identify a change you'd like to see in your community or immediate environment.
  • Brainstorm three small, actionable steps you can take to initiate this change.
  • Implement one of these steps. It could be as simple as starting a petition, organizing a community clean-up, or setting up a discussion group.
  • Document the process and any challenges or successes you encounter.
  • Reflect on the impact of your action, no matter how small, and motivate yourself to continue pushing for change.

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