THINGS JOLIE NEEDS TO DO BEFORE SHE BITES IT by KERRY WINFREY
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It by Kerry Winfrey is a delightful little gem of a book reminiscent of teen comedies from the 2000s. It follows our main character, Jolie, as she prepares to have corrective surgery for her underbite. Terrified that she might die during the surgery, Jolie creates a list of things she “bites it.” This list includes things like reading Jane Eyre, eating every appetizer on the menu at Applebees, riding in a convertible, and kissing Noah Reed, the latest object of her affection. Together with her best friends, Evelyn and Derek, Jolie begins a journey of self-discovery and self-love, all the while living in fear that she’s going to “bite it.”
Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It took me by complete surprise. I picked it up on a whim—that whim being that I needed something to read for this review—and didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did. Boy, was I wrote. I loved this book. Clocking in at a slim 276 pages, TJNTDBSBI is a fast read packed with enough heart and humor to fill a book twice its size. In addition to Jolie’s list, there’s also a sub-plot revolving around her pregnant older sister, Abbi. Abbi and Jolie’s relationship is strained by this pregnancy and their parents don’t seem to be forcing the issue of the pregnancy very much. The family dynamics of this book aren’t shoved in a corner or ignored, but an integral part to the story/. Jolie’s mother is a rock band member turned school counselor, and her father is a woodworking tough guy who loves cooking and HGTV. Together, the Peterson family is a quirky patchwork of people that I never got tired of.
Humor is a huge part of this book. I laughed out loud multiple times through my reading of it. Jolie’s overblown anxiety about her surgery is something I could definitely relate to, as well as her mother and sister’s obsession with “worst-case scenario” medical shows. I loved Jolie as a character and found myself identifying with her journey through her list, and through her experience as the lead in her school play. What starts as a ploy to kiss Noah Reed, turns into Jolie realizing that she might actually be good at this acting thing. Seeing her self-confidence grow throughout the book is wonderful.
While TJNTDBSBI may hit on some familiar plot beats of other YA contemporary novels, it’s important to consider the disability representation. Jolie has an underbite and it is a significant part of who she is as a person. It affects her confidence and her personality and causes her significant pain. While an underbite is something that can be corrected, it’s still an issue that no one ever really talks about. The fact that Jolie does have a condition I’ve never read about in YA before made me appreciate this book even more than I already did. It helps that the book is also #OwnVoices, since Kerry Winfrey states in her acknowledgements that she had an underbite as well. I also appreciated the casual diversity found in the book. Derek is a man of color, Evelyn is unapologetically gay and fat, and none of these things are used as shock value or reduced to tokenism.
If you want a quick read, or if you’re looking to laugh, check out Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It at the Argenta Library today!