By L. B. Davis
Anyone craving a classic middle school book needs a copy of FOOD FIGHT. From class elections, first crushes, friendship troubles and bullies to surviving a class trip—everything's covered in all it's sixth grade glory.
The story follows Ben, a smart and athletic kid whose biggest speed bump, besides the shifting social landscape of sixth grade, is his eating. There are only ten foods he eats and that fact is getting harder to hide, especially as his social group expands. In fact, he has a condition known as ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), but no way does he want the school faculty or the other kids to know about that. As if simply surviving middle school wasn't hard enough, poor Ben tries his best to hide his problem from everyone on a daily basis but a three day school trip (where outside food isn't allowed) may prove too much to handle.
Ben is such a likable character and the group of kids he hangs out with, from nerdy Olivia to cute Lauren and bully Darren, are so well characterized and three dimensional that it's easy to become swept up in all the social dynamics and drama at play.
Highly recommend getting this book into the hands of as many upper elementary and middle schoolers as possible. A delightful read!
All Alone With You
By A. Coombs
Senior Eloise (Lou ) suffers from depression and anxiety. Friendless, she spends her free time perfecting her GPA and playing video games, a perpetual scowl on her face. It isn't until she is told she needs volunteer hours to make her college applications stand out that she steps out of her comfort zone and through the doors of LifeCare, a facility that pairs volunteers with lonely elderly clients. Enter sunshine-filled Austin (another volunteer) and former rock star Marianne (client) and soon days are flying by and Eloise finds herself not entirely hating the experience (smiling even), not to mention falling for Austin.
This is a sweet romance about a girl finding social acceptance and the patient boy who stands by her without criticism, both brought together through their roles as volunteers. Aging rocker, Marianne, adds humor and some frank conversations into the mix and the banter between Eloise and Austin is delightful—the perfect balance of snark, wit, humor, and sweetness. Ideally, I would have loved a slightly deeper dive into Austin's back story and past, especially what happened with his father, but I did enjoy seeing the musician side of him thrive.
A highly enjoyable read, would definitely recommend. Thank you to @netgalley for the ARC.
By S. Dasgupta
This was a fun Pride and Prejudice retelling set in the interesting world of school speech and debate tournaments. The large cast of characters added a fun dynamic to the overall story and played off well against the sassy heroine, Leela.
Firoze Darcy was brilliantly written as Leela's antagonist turned more and had a deep and layered past that was expertly woven into the story.
A humorous read filled with witty banter and literary references.
ABBY, TRIED AND TRUE
By D. Gephart
On sale Date: 3/9/2021
Thank you to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
From award-winning middle-grade author, Donna Gephart, comes a powerful novel about friendship and family.
Seventh-grader Abby is a softy-spoken, endearing protagonist who must find inner strength when her brother, Paul, is diagnosed with testicular cancer and her best (and only) friend moves away.
Through Abbie's eyes, Gephart honestly explores the impact of Paul's cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment on the family unit.
The heaviness of this situation is lightened by Abby's developing feelings for her new neighbor, the cute and sensitive Conrad. Her supportive mom's and extended family are equally endearing.
An extended author's note provides information about Gephart's personal struggles with ovarian cancer as well as information specific to testicular cancer.
This is an important read for those wishing to learn more about cancer treatment or supporting a loved one with cancer. Hopefully, it will also increase awareness of testicular cancer (and the importance of early diagnosis) amongst middle-grade readers.
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By Barbara Dee
HALFWAY NORMAL is a wonderful contemporary story about Norah, a seventh-grader returning to school following a prolonged absence for leukemia treatment.
As well as the standard middle-school parent, friendship and relationship dilemmas, Dee brilliantly weaves in the added pressures of being labeled a cancer-survivor and having an impaired immune system and the impact that has on Norah's reintegration into the school community and her interactions with others.
Norah is a likable character on a journey towards self-acceptance and a new normal. Her story is filled with hope and inspiration making this a must-read for all.
FOCUSED By Alyson Gerber
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
From the author of Braced, which sheds light on scoliosis, comes Focused - a middle-grade novel about ADHD.
The main character, chess-obsessed Clea, has been struggling with school and her relationships with others. When she is diagnosed with ADHD, her life slowly begins to change as strategies are implemented to help her find ways to concentrate and manage her school work and daily tasks.
Clea is a well-crafted character whose seventh-grade challenges (homework, friendship issues, bullies, and first crushes) are relatable and believable. The first-person narrative gives the reader unique insight into her thought processes as she struggles with her ADHD, and juggles academic and social pressures. Readers will become cheerleaders - wanting Clea to try, try, and try again to strive for her goals and dreams.
This is an ideal read for ADHD sufferers and anyone interested in learning more about it. A helpful author's note follows to supplement the informative details included in the story.
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Alan Cole Is Not A Coward
By Eric Bell
Get ready to be entertained, surprised, and inspired by Eric Bell's debut novel.
The main character and narrator, Alan, is masterfully portrayed as an unpopular yet likable and relatable middle-schooler. Although plagued by self-doubt, coming-out fears, and family issues he rises above all challenges and finds the courage to stay true to himself, and the people and ideas he believes in.
The secondary characters such as Alan's brother (Nathan) and Alan's friend (Zack) are equally memorable. And the depiction of middle school life is faultless.
This book will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it will be worth it for the hope and happiness you will feel in your heart at the conclusion. Suitable for middle-school readers and up.
Drum Roll, Please
By Lisa Jenn Bigelow
If you are ready to be transported to summer camp, Drum Roll, Please is just what you need!
Melly attends music camp with her best friend but she experiences much more than an improvement in her drumming. As well as managing her own self doubt and learning how to survive at sleep away camp in the isolated Michigan woods, there are difficult times with her best friend, her parents impending divorce, and a surprising first crush on a girl.
Through Melly’s eyes, Bigelow paints a vivid picture of the woods, camp site, and the emotional roller coaster Melly is riding. The friendships between the characters are delicate and complex and realistically portrayed. Melly’s first crush is explored innocently without unnecessary focus or dramatization.
A beautifully written, well executed story full of heart where each page turn brings more feels. Suitable for middle- grade readers and up.
Embrace your inner rocker and enjoy!