Finished Don’t Judge Me by Lisa Schroeder.
Summary (from Goodreads):
“Inspired by a true story of girl empowerment, acclaimed author Lisa Schroeder’s new novel explores trust, self-worth, and speaking up — especially when you’re told to keep quiet.
Hazel doesn’t like to make waves. Middle school is hard enough without causing more trouble, right? She’s happy just eating lunch in the library with her BFF, writing secret haikus, and taking care of an adorable rescue tortoise.
But then Hazel discovers a list that rates the girls at her middle school based on their looks — started by her best friend’s older brother. She knows she has to do something, and she can’t do it alone. The wave she’ll be making might turn into a tsunami, but if Hazel can find the courage to speak up, she might just change everything.”
I was so excited to get to read this early, because Lisa Schroeder is one of my absolute most favorite authors. She deals with heavy topics but she does it with sensitivity and while treating her characters and the kids who will be reading her books with the utmost respect.
Hazel is in the middle of a situation that she doesn’t know how to handle. She’s found a notebook that rates the girls at her school (including Hazel herself) and all she knows for sure is that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to adults about it. She thinks her parents will either go straight to the principal or confront the boy whose notebook she stole (her best friend’s older brother) and she doesn’t want to get in trouble and she doesn’t want to get other people in trouble, either. She just wants this behavior to stop.
I essentially was Hazel in middle school, so I had so much empathy for her. And when she realizes that she is braver and more capable than she thought, I felt like her mom. I was so happy and so proud.
Lisa Schroeder’s books (and Lisa herself) are just pure magic. They always make me happy, even as they remind me that there’s a lot of good in the world. (Yes, there are also awful people. But there are more good people than bad, especially when the good ones speak up.)