I have read this book no less than twelve times in my life. Maybe more. I don't know, I just know I've read it a whole lot. I had to read it for Battle of the Books in the fifth grade and I have been in love with it ever since.
And I think that it's definitely one of Paterson's better ones, probably because she wrote it from a very personal place (it's based on what happened to her son's best friend.) I like it because, while yes, it is very obviously a kids book, it doesn't shy away from things BECAUSE it is a kids book. It approaches real topics like bullying and abuse and death and grieving.
I love the characters. Jess and Leslie are two very real, fleshed out kids who have personalities and lives and problems and it's fabulous. And even the minor characters become real to me. Honestly, I just think that Paterson really hit the nail on the head with this book.
Plus, you know I can't resist a good banned book.