Category Archives: Middlegrade

Click’d (mini review)

Finished Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone. I received a copy for review. 

Allie has created a new app that is supposed to help you find friends. You take a simple quiz and then it alerts you when compatible people are nearby. It quickly becomes a huge success in her middle school and things are great…until there’s a glitch. Sometimes it shares photos that aren’t public. 

This was such a fun book and I absolutely devoured it. I love that Allie was so driven, even at such a young age, and that she created this awesome, fun app that people loved. At the same time, I love that she ALSO has these great relationships with her parents and friends. She is a well-rounded character and not a weirdo with no friends. I think most MG readers could relate to her. 

If you know someone who’s a reluctant reader, this could be what changes that. It also would be great for mother/daughter book clubs or to encourage an interest in STEM subjects. 

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Patina

Finished Patina by Jason Reynolds. I received a copy for review. 

Patty (short for Patina) runs track. She and her little sister Maddy live with their aunt and uncle after their dad died and their mom got so sick (diabetes; both legs had to be amputated). And that’s basically her life: track and caring for Maddy. 

Like everything Jason Reynolds writes, this is a masterpiece. It’s impossible not to root for Patty, even if she’s a sore loser (though really, who likes to lose?). She’s such a great person and an amazing sister. 

She has so much on her plate and she never seems resentful. She has this innate sense of self, and I actually envy that. 

I will read everything he writes. You should, too. Highly recommended. 

Things That Surprise You

Finished Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari. I received a copy for review. 

Emily is in middle school and it’s kind of awful. She and her best friend aren’t as close as they used to be and she feels really left behind. 

There’s a lot of other stuff going on (her sister is in treatment for anorexia and her dad is living with another woman) and really, she just feels forgotten by everyone. 

This book is absolutely amazing. I think middle school is awful for everyone and I bet we can all relate to losing friends then. It’s the worst time because it’s when all of a sudden, people change. And if you’re not changing as fast as they are, you get ditched. And Emily is still elementary school Emily. She likes boys as friends, not as BOYS. She still loves her silly unicorn books. And she isn’t that into makeup and fashion. 

And add in her parents splitting up and her sister…it’s awful. (And I love how she’s allowed to be angry about it. She has good parents.)

This is a fantastic novel and you need it. Highly recommended. 

One For Sorrow

Finished One For Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn. I received a copy for review. 

Annie is the new girl at school, and it’s awful. Elsie is the only girl who will talk to her, and she’s the class freak. Not surprisingly, Annie is now the other class freak. (And it’s deserved, honestly; Elsie is awful.) When Elsie gets sick, Annie has a chance to make the popular girls like her…and it works! Except Elsie then gets the Spanish flu and dies…although (like Helen in the scariest kids book ever, Wait til Helen Comes), it doesn’t seem to matter. She’s still very much around. 

This is an excellent, creepy and fun story. It’s not as scary as her earlier novel Wait til Helen Comes, but that’s OK. It’s still very well-written and genuinely unsettling. 

Elsie can affect things. She can touch people (who can’t touch her back) and she can also damage things. Scariest of all, she can also almost possess Annie and make her say and do things. And, of course, Annie is blamed for everything. (Pro tip: if you blame things on your dead classmate, no one will believe you.)

I love that Mary Downing Hahn is still writing intensely creepy novels. This one is sure to bring a bit of Halloween to your end-of-summer fun. 

From Ant to Eagle

Finished From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle. I received a copy for review. 

Cal killed his little brother, Sammy. That’s the first thing we learn in this book. Soon, we learn there’s a lot more to it than that, but it’s important to know that going in. This is a great book, but it’s also a sad one. 

It’s easy to tell that Cal loves Sammy and that he’s a good big brother. But he wants to spend his summer with Aleta (a new girl) and most of the time, nothing would happen because of it. But Sammy feels left out and then he gets sick. There’s no correlation, of course, but now Cal feels guilty. 

This is such a good book but it’s a hard read. (Not the whole way, of course, but be prepared. This book will carve out your heart.)

Highly recommended. (Have tissues.)

Keys to the City

Finished Keys to the City by Lisa Schroeder. 

Lindy is not enthused about her summer homework (she has to find something she’s passionate about and good at). Her friends already have their things: music, dance, stuff like that. But Lindy loves books and emojis and that’s not exactly a career in the making. She has the summer to find what she excels at…except she has no idea how to even start. 

This book is adorable and amazing. I feel like we all know people who have their lives together and they’re intimidating enough now, so I don’t envy Lindy having to deal with this in middle school. 

If you’ve ever felt lost when it comes to the future, this book is for you. (Either way, this book is for you. It’s clever and incredibly sweet.) Lindy and her friends stole my heart. 

Highly recommended. 

Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook

Finished Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer. I received a copy for review. 

Gabby Garcia’s life is going perfectly: she has great grades, good friends and she’s the best baseball pitcher at her school. She’s even in the midst of pitching a no-hitter when everything falls apart: her school has asbestos. Now she has to transfer to a new school and all of a sudden she’s a jinx, the baseball team doesn’t need her (or even like her) and her grades are heading firmly toward Cs. It is not ideal. How to reverse this trend? 

This is adorable and sports fans will love it. Watching Gabby try to reinvent herself is pretty hysterical (let’s just say that all of her new “talents” prove to be harder to master than she expects) but kids will learn to (a) keep trying and (b) attempt new things. There are definitely worse things. ;)

It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I would definitely read the sequel. 

Star-Crossed

Finished Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. I received a copy for review. 

Mattie is in eighth grade and is super psyched that their class play is Romeo & Juliet! She never really thought about acting before but decides to try out. She gets cast as Paris but her two best friends are cast, as well…and her new friend Gemma is playing Juliet! Things get complicated, though, when Mattie realizes that maybe she doesn’t think of Gemma as just a friend…

This book is completely adorable! I love Mattie, Tessa and Lucy. They are great friends and I really want a book from Tessa’s perspective (she collects and uses Shakespearean insults. Who wouldn’t want to be her friend?!). 

The realization that Mattie has a crush on a girl is handled sensitively and it’s a super sweet crush. (And they’re in eighth grade so it does make sense that it would happen now.)

Warning, though: this will make you want to watch the movie. Recommended. 

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Finished Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. I received a copy for review. 

Clayton Byrd loves a lot of things but his two favorites are his grandfather (Cool Papa) and the blues. He plays the blues harp (harmonica) and yearns for the day he’s good enough for a solo. When his grandpa dies, though, his mom forbids him from playing again. Losing Cool Papa is awful enough; he can’t lose the blues, too! So he decides he’ll steal the blues harp back and go on the road with The Bluesmen. 

I really liked this book and its exploration of grief. It’s not a sad book, per se, but it shows the little-discussed side effects (anger, sudden exhaustion). 

I also appreciate the way we see Clayton’s mom. She’s doing mean things but she has her reasons. It’s not something Clayton necessarily gets but careful readers will. 

This is a novel that will steal your heart. Recommended. 

Posted

Finished Posted by John David Anderson. I received a copy for review. 

Frost and his friends aren’t the coolest group in their middle school. They’re mostly left alone, thanks to the fact that one of them is a jock. Then three things happen (in no particular order): the jock friend gets good, a new girl starts to sit with them and cell phones get banned from the school. As a result, Post-Its become a new form of bullying. 

This book is a slow burn. Most of it is character-driven (which is fine, because the characters are fantastic, especially Rose) and, while it’s interesting throughout, the last quarter or so is the best. 

It’s definitely interesting to think that kids will always find a way to be awful to each other. I like to think it’s not true, but I know better. Especially in middle school. But it’s also true that you find your people and they will save you. Those are basically the two themes of the book, and both are equally true. 

Recommended.