It’s only been three weeks since my last MMGM post, and I’m back! Plus I have a few other middle grade books I just picked up, so I should be participating for several weeks.
Some of you may recall that Jenny Lundquist’s debut book, SEEING CINDERELLA, was my favorite MG read of 2012. So of course I had to pick up her new book, PLASTIC POLLY, right away. Here’s the description.
Polly Pierce likes being the second-most-popular girl at Winston Academy, right after her best friend, Kelsey. Being popular means special privileges, including a coveted spot on the planning committee for Groove It Up, the annual talent competition between Winston Academy and its rival school, American River Middle School.
Though things look rosy, life at the top isn’t as perfect as it appears to be. Polly misses her ex-best friend, Alyssa; her workaholic mom doesn’t think her daughter has any motivation; and kids at school call her Plastic Polly behind her back–since all she ever does is agree with whatever Kelsey says.
But when Kelsey has a freak accident, Polly is suddenly thrown into the top spot as PlanMaster of the Groove It Up committee. Backstabbing frenemies, diva interference from Kelsey, and a crush who knows more about Polly than he lets on all threaten to derail her plans. In the midst of the chaos, Polly finds an unlikely ally and finally has a chance to prove to everyone–and herself–that she’s more than just Plastic Polly.
Here are the five things I loved most about this book:
1. Polly’s dilemma – I love the way Jenny Lundquist describes Polly’s struggle between being popular and being herself.
“But here’s the other thing about popularity: It doesn’t come cheap. Sometimes it makes you choose one best friend over another. And you can never admit to anyone that sometimes you wonder if you made the wrong choice. Because if you admitted that, they’d just laugh and say, ‘You’re popular. What problems could you possibly have?’ So instead, you keep your mouth shut, stick a fake smile on your face, and pretend you don’t have any. Problems, that is.”
Another time she describes popularity as the middle school equivalent of a security blanket. It was an interesting look into a group that many of us never enter. I really identified with Polly, even though I’ve never been in that position. It’s very well done.
2. Polly’s journey – While I could group this point with the previous one, it really is a different issue. Popularity is just one of the things Polly deals with, and it certainly factors into her journey, but the more important part of the character arc is Polly figuring out who she is. Up until now, she’s gone along with what others expect her to be and doesn’t know who she wants to be. I really enjoyed seeing her grow into her own. It was such an apt expression of the middle school experience.
3. The friendships – Here’s something else everyone deals with in middle school–figuring out who your friends are. Polly’s struggle is amplified by a choice she made her first week of seventh grade. It’s not a matter of one friend being better than the other. They’re different, and Polly cares about them for what makes them unique. It’s more a question of what she’s willing to do to keep both–not an easy thing when everyone else is trying to slot you into a certain mold.
4. The mean girls – Ok, I don’t love the mean girls themselves. What I appreciate about them is how true to life they are. Every girl in this story shows her mean streak at some point, including Polly–a few times to hold up her reputation and once to her mom. We’ve all been there. Middle school is rough! I know I wasn’t an exception. My mom says I was awful to her as a thirteen-year-old. Sorry, Mom!
5. The ending – I’m not going to give it away, but I found this ending thoroughly satisfying. Kudos to Jenny Lundquist for not making it a cookie cutter ending.
I still loved SEEING CINDERELLA more than this one, but PLASTIC POLLY certainly holds its own, and I highly recommend it.