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Publisher's Summary

*Newbery Honor Book*
*Odyssey Honor Audiobook*

A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by two-time Newbery Honor winner and number one New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War that Saved My Life

Kirkus Prize Finalist
Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Booklist Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Best Book of the Year
BookPage Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
Golden Kite Honor Book
Rise: Feminist Book Project Selection
ALSC Notable Book
Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices Selection
Junior Library Guild Selection

"Fighting Words is raw, it is real, it is necessary, a must-read for children and their adults - a total triumph in all ways." (Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times best-selling author of Counting by 7s)

Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom's boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della's own wolf - her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della's world turns so far upside down, it feels like it's shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she's been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it's time to be loud.

In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.

"Della’s matter-of-fact narration manages to be as funny and charming as it is devastatingly sad.... This is a novel about trauma and the scars it leaves on bodies, minds and hearts. But more than that, it’s a book about resilience, strength and healing."  (New York Times Book Review)

"One of the most important books ever written for kids." (Colby Sharp of Nerdy Book Club)

"One for the history books.... One of the best of the year." (Betsy Bird for A Fuse #8 Production/SLJ)

©2020 Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (P)2020 Listening Library

Critic Reviews

"Believable and immensely appealing, Suki, Francine, and especially Della light up [the] story . . . Readers will root for these sisters along every step of their daunting journey. Refusing to soft-pedal hard issues, the novel speaks with an astringent honesty, at once heartbreaking and hopeful.” —Kirkus (starred review) 

“Always an engaging and smooth writer, Bradley here unfurls a tale that initially recalls Paterson’s classic Great Gilly Hopkins but then adds layers of complexity . . . It’s a sensitive exploration of the way people can suffer in different ways and need different things, and characterization is deft and vivid . . . Stirring . . . Satisfying . . . Rewarding.” BCCB (starred review) 

“Despite the horrors the sisters have endured, there is humor and warmth in this multifaceted, brave novel. Bradley creates fully developed, believable characters that readers will root for. . . . Raw and honest, this ultimately empowering novel is an important book for readers of all ages.” SLJ (starred review) 

What listeners say about Fighting Words

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Good book to read

The narrator made the story come alive. A Hard subject to hear about told in a hopeful style

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Tough book, but important

Written very carefully with lots of hard themes. This book could save a child's life.

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Empowering

So so so many valuable and empowering messages in this book! My daughter does not love reading, but she loves this book! I'm telling all my friends with daughters about it (and hope my son can learn from it too!)

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A well told story

The book is wonderful. The characters are developed well during the story. The story line is direct and honest

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Absolutely worth listening

My daughter read this book and told me about it. I’m so glad I listened to it. I cried and laughed. It made me want to look up more books by this author.

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Loved it!!!

Must read with your children…. You will not regret the information in this book…. Great delivery….

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Suffers from extreme didacticism. And Bahni Turpin

I know I'm in the minority here when it comes to Bahni Turpin, but it has reached the point, after listening to five or six novels narrated by her, that I simply won't purchase a book she narrates. Her voice is *shrill* and it's made even worse when she narrates a child's voice. It's hours and hours of cringe. I wish I could like her, because I have now passed up several titles that I otherwise would have enjoyed.

In terms of the story - the topic is *essential* and I wish there was more fiction out there on child sexual abuse for a child audience. But the writing was so didactic, so patently a 'teaching' piece, that it came off sounding like a (really, really, really long) brochure advertising therapy and self-acceptance and consent/setting boundaries.

I did not care for the written voice of Della, even notwithstanding Turpin's narration. While I do believe Della was consistent and a believable character, I (a sexual abuse survivor, like the author) could not connect with her. She simply did not feel real or fully fleshed out. I just think, at ten years old, having been raised by her child sister for half that time and her meth addict mother before that, an ordinary child would be much angrier, much more closed off, much more reactive; and when help finally started coming, an ordinary child would be much more resistant, at least at first. And, frankly, that would have made the story more interesting.

If you've got kids, or work with kids, read the book, give it to them to read, and talk with them about it because it's important and there's little to nothing out there in terms of fiction for middle graders on the topic. But, ugh. It's like nasty tasting medicine.

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Life-saver

This book will save lives. It would have made a world of difference to me aa an elementary or even a high school reader.

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Very realistic and relevant story and characters

This books broaches many difficult topics that adults often try to censor from the lives of young people even though life deals them out anyway. Even though the topics are adult, Brubaker Bradley approaches them gently and without overly graphic description, so young people can understand using whatever level of knowledge they have. I highly recommend for grades 4 and up as a help for those who are suffering and those we need to help recognize that suffering.
Ms. Turpin’s performance was spot on, as usual.

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Inspiring

This book is a very powerful book full of insight, hope and honesty. As an educator, there were moments when I felt like Della was talking directly to me. I need to do better for the children in my care. I need to have relationships with each and every child that fosters trust. I also need to make sure that this book is available so a child who needs to hear their story will be able to. Even though the topics being discussed are very difficult, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley does a masterful job of incorporating sensitivity and humor throughout the entire story.