I’m now done with all but one of the books I set out to read for the 48-Hour #MGReadathon two weeks ago. Here are some more shorter reviews – lots of good books here! And thanks again to Ms. Yingling for organizing the readathon and prompting me to track down more good books.
Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly. HarperCollins, 2022. ISBN 9780062970350. Read from library copy.
The small middle school in the rural Southern factory town of Fawn Creek is split into tight cliques, where everybody knows what everyone else will say or do before they do so. (All characters except one teacher read as white.) This is shaken up when a new girl, Orchid, shows up, taking the desk of the meanest and most popular girl in seventh grade after she moves to the next biggest town. We mostly see things through the eyes of outcasts Greyson, whose interest in fashion and lack of interest in sports and hunting code him as gay, and his friend Dorothy, with occasional views through the eyes of Janie, who used to be Renni’s best friend. Orchid has a pretty strong manic pixie dream girl vibe which rapidly attracts a lot of attention. But who is she really?
It took me a little while to get into this book – the plot and the characters felt just a little too predictable. But it grew on me over time, as the characters developed more nuance and Orchid herself pointed out the universality of the school’s cliques. This is a great one for fans of middle school social politics.
Answers in the Pages by David Levithan. Knopf, 2022. ISBN 978-0593484685. Read from library copy.
This highly relevant story packs three different narratives into a compact 170 pages. In the first storyline, our narrator, whose name we eventually learn is Donovan, shares with us the last line of a book, telling us it’s the last time we’ll have a chance to make up our own minds about what it means. The book is one that he was assigned to read for his fifth-grade class, and which his mother then decides to protest because of “inappropriate content for his age.” Next, we read a chapter from the book – an action/adventure story starring two boys and a girl. Finally, we read about the slow blossoming of a relationship between two boys in the same school with a different teacher. All three combine to make a stirring and thought-provoking story of kids battling for their own freedom – emotional, intellectual, and of course from man-eating alligators.
Zia Erases the World by Bree Barton. Viking, 2022. ISBN 9780593350997. Read from library copy.
Ever since her friend’s birthday party, Zia has been caught up with what she calls the “Shadoom” – a feeling of intense dread that won’t let her participate in her own life as she used to. She’s no longer able to talk with her two best friends or share what’s going on in her life with her mother. As she and her mother help her grandmother, her Yiayia, move out of her house and into their tiny one-bedroom apartment, Zia discovers a beautiful dictionary in her Yiayia’s attic. It’s complete with an eraser shaped like a mataki, the evil eye pendant – and whatever word Zia erases disappears in real life. Only the new girl, Alice Pham, who’s inexplicably trying to make friends with her, seems to even remember that the things existed. In between chapters are dictionary definitions both of real words like “xenium” – a gift from a friend or stranger and ones that Zia has made up herself like “potado” – “a whirling vortex of violently rotating tubers.” This kind of humor and warm family relationships balance out the clear hardships in Zia’s life and her struggling to figure out what to do about the Shadoom, which is clearly depression to the adult eye.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?