Thursday, August 10, 2017

Things That Surprise You - a review 8.10.17

Everyone has different experiences in middle school.  Although it seems like when you bring up that subject, everyone's reaction tends to be "ugh, middle school".  It's that awkward stage.  When you're stuck between figuring out your own style and wearing what mom bought.  It's the bad hair cut days, that precede just bad hair days.  It's the time when friendships change, and usually the transitions are hard.

I remember my middle school days.  I remember the teachers, some I liked, some I remember because of how much I disliked them.  I remember teachers coming back from their breaks smelling like smoke.  I remember the feathered hairstyles and the clothing styles - Guess jeans, pegged pants, layered socks, stirrup pants, and collars turned up.  I remember middle school being a time where I went from middle grade novels to the young adult section at the library.  But what I really remember about middle school was how unsure I was of myself.  I went from having friends to changing friends.  I went from being happy to being made fun of by my peers.  I went from not caring to caring too much.  

A lot of this hasn't changed.  The styles change but the part about friendship, about not knowing who you are, about trying to figure it all out, hasn't changed at all.  And that's why I'm glad there are books like this.

Things That Surprise You
Things That Surprise You
by Jennifer Maschari
published by Balzer + Bray
August 22nd

Why I think this book is important to have in a middle grade class:

  • the one lines.  There are so many times that Maschari sums up how it feels to be in that transitional spot in one line.  So many times I stopped and said, "yes!!"  This will speak to kids.
  • she embraces the unicorns.  A lot of the book centers around how one friend is changing and the main character isn't.  They both loved the Unicorn Chronicles books (think Harry Potter and the resulting movies, costumes, paraphernalia...) but now that might not be as cool.
  • friendships change.  That tough period when a friendship is changing, and you know they are both going to go their separate ways, but not until some hard moments happen.  It was spot on in this book.
  • family is important.  Maschari puts in an interesting spin on this topic - the older sister is battling addiction to an eating disorder, the MC's parents are divorced and the father is moving on with a new partner.  While always a sticky situation, I like the way it was covered.
I think this book is going to be passed around classrooms and libraries this fall.  I know it's going in my library.  There are going to be kids who need this book!

Goodreads summary:
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds fantastic. It seems like it will speak to many young people.