Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy

Hello, Jen Petro-Roy! Thank you for stopping by to share Julie McLaughlin’s cover illustration and Liz Dresner’s cover design for Life in the Balance. You emailed me the cover a few days ago. I’ve gone back to my email to look at it multiple times. I’ve focused on the moon. I’ve focused on the cleats. I’ve focused on the movement and the dirt on Veronica’s pants. I imagine your eye went directly to something the first time you saw the cover and a reaction occurred in your heart.

Jenn Petro-Roy: Isn’t it beautiful? My mouth fell open when I first saw this beautiful cover. I love how the red is so bright and the blue so deep. I love how the swing captures both Veronica’s journey of growth and the way she is so precariously balanced between two passions, one old and one new. It is utterly perfect.

I agree! If you were standing in front of a group of 5th graders, what would you tell them about Life in the Balance?

Jenn Petro-Roy: I would ask those 5th graders about their passions and what they feel called to do in life. I’d ask them what makes their heart sing and their spirit fly. I’d talk about how Veronica feels stuck between two of these passions, and how over the course of Life in the Balance, while dealing with both her own journey of self-discovery and her mother’s, she realizes that life is allowed to change on you. That you can choose to push away the pressure that everyone else seems so eager to place upon your back.

Is there a line/phrase/passage in Life in the Balance you find yourself returning to again and again? 

Jen Petro-Roy: One of my favorite scenes is when Veronica is looking at the stars from her backyard treehouse right after dropping her mother off at rehab, worrying that things will never get better:

I wonder if Mom’s looking at the same stars tonight. My science teacher, Ms. Davidson, told us that different constellations appear in the sky depending on where the viewer is in the world. Mom should have the same view as me—she’s barely an hour away, not even in a different time zone or different hemisphere.

It feels like she’s on the other side of the world, though; that she can’t see the North Star, no matter which window she looks out of at her treatment center.

That there’s no possibility she’ll find her way home again.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Veronica Conway feels sad, excited, betrayed, confused, hopeful, and scared. Just like so many of us do, every day. Kids have these emotions, too. Kids feel big feelings, too.

Softball is the most important thing in Veronica’s life, and a family tradition. It’s also a lot of pressure, and I think that kids these days feel that a lot. From travel teams to double sessions to starting sports and activities at an early age, the pressure to achieve early and often is so common. I hope that Veronica’s journey to find balance will resonate with a lot of these over-scheduled kids.

I hope Life in the Balance
starts some conversations about honesty—within families, with friends, and with oneself. It is so common to keep addictions a secret, but it’s also so crucial to reveal these truths in order to enable healing and start the recovery process. Addiction is nothing to be ashamed of, and those who support family members going through this struggle are so strong.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what it’s like to have my both of my daughters now old enough to read and share books with. It’s amazing! Since I read mostly kidlit myself, it’s so much fun to be able to talk about what we’ve all read. As a former librarian and a current writer, it’s one more way I can advocate for books! A recent favorite my eight-year-old recommended to me was Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot!

Look for Life in the Balance on February 16, 2021. 

Veronica struggles to balance softball, friends, and family turmoil in this new honest and heartfelt middle grade novel by Jen Petro-Roy, Life in the Balance.

Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She's practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock.

Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team.

Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much.

Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?

Jen Petro-Roy is a former teen librarian, an obsessive reader, and a trivia fanatic. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Massachusetts. She is the author of P.S. I Miss You, Good Enough, and You Are Enough: An Inclusive Guide to Body Image and Eating Disorder Recovery. Jen is an eating disorder survivor and an advocate for recovery.


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