It’s been a while since I jumped into MMGM–and to be fair, not all of these books are middle grade–but the first two are, and I wanted to share them with the marvelous middle grade crowd. You just get a few bonus young adult books as well 😀.
TAKE BACK THE BLOCK by Chrystal D. Giles is about sixth grader Wes, who resents the protests his parents are always dragging him along to—until a developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood where he and his friends all live. Tying into a school project on social justice, the effort to save his home leads Wes into research on gentrification and how it affects neighborhoods in general but also how he might save his own home.
This was a fantastic read from the standpoint of teaching me, a white reader, more about what gentrification is and how it is affecting inner-city communities. But it’s also such a great story of friendship and family. As a new middle schooler, Wes’s friendships are changing, and it’s exacerbated by what’s happening in his neighborhood. He has to figure out what’s most important to fight for—both with his friendships and his community.
I highly recommend this read, and for any librarian and teacher friends out there following me, definitely add this one for your students!
I read ALONE by Megan E. Freeman in a single day. As a verse novel, it’s definitely a quick read anyway, but even more, I just had to get to the end and find out whether Maddie was reunited with her family.
The setup is this: 12-year-old Maddie plans a sleepover with her friends at her grandparents’ empty apartment, telling each of her parents she’s staying at the other’s house. But her friends cancel, and in the middle of the night, everyone in the town is evacuated. The power goes out, there’s no internet, and her only companion is George, the Rottweiler from next door.
Like I said, I could not stop reading this book because the stakes just kept raising. What would Maddie have to survive next? Because it kept getting worse—winter, natural disasters, and perhaps worst of all, loneliness. Honestly, if it were me, I wouldn’t even know how to start a fire (despite the fact we have a woodpile and fireplace). If you pick this book up and are able to stop reading, I’ll be shocked.
From the moment I read the description for HOT BRITISH BOYFRIEND by Kristy Boyce, I was in!
After a horrifying public rejection by her crush (oh, is it humiliating!), Ellie joins the high school’s study abroad trip to England and decides a hot British boyfriend is the solution to her image problem. Will checks all the boxes, and her classmate Dev is on board to help her learn about the things Will enjoys, like cricket. (Confession: I am forever mentally thinking croquet when I see cricket 🤦♀️.)
Aaaanyway, what I loved about this book was that while the title certainly leads you to think it’s all about romance—and that’s certainly a big part—it’s really about Ellie figuring herself out. She’s pretty lost when she goes to England, and as she makes friends, attends classes, and works through her Hot British Boyfriend plan, she starts to discover what she really wants in the future. I loved that path of self-discovery.
I also really enjoyed all of Ellie’s new friends—practical Sage, beatboxing Huan, smart and earnest Dev with the hidden love of fantasy. And the setting! I am always up for any book that takes me on a journey to new places, and this one not only delivered the English countryside but Venice! Someday…
I’m a sucker for stories with magic, but I can honestly say I’ve never read a story from the point of view of a fairy godmother, which is actually pretty surprising. So I was very excited for G.F. Miller’s young adult take in GLIMPSED.
It’s about Charity, who focuses her godmothering efforts on the students at her school. Whenever she “glimpses” a perfect outcome, she helps them achieve it. But then she meets Noah, who’s been watching her and says one of the wishes she fulfilled screwed up his life. He blackmails her into undoing the wish, and in the meantime one of her other wishes goes very wrong, making her question her powers and methods.
The growing relationship between Charity and Noah is absolutely adorable. It’s filled with Star Trek references that amused me, as my parents raised me on a steady diet of Star Trek–although not to the level of cosplaying. But what I enjoyed most about the book was Charity’s character growth, as she realized how to navigate all of the relationships in her life, not only with Noah but her family members and the people to whom she’d previously granted wishes.
So… THE OBSESSION by Jesse Q. Sutanto had me looking over my shoulder and wondering if I should delete all my social media accounts. It’s intense, but at the same time, I couldn’t put it down. I mean, just read the tagline on the front:
Boy meets girl. Boy stalks girl. Girl gets revenge.
And yet… there is soooo much more than that going on in this book. Logan and Delilah are both fundamentally flawed. And because the story is told in both points of view, I felt equally horrified and empathetic toward them both as the story kept unfolding. It’s truly masterful storytelling. I really wanted to give a slow clap.
Obviously, it’s clear from this description that the book includes a stalker, but there are some other potential triggers, including domestic violence (I don’t feel it’s a spoiler since it comes up very early). But if you can handle those, this book is one that will keep you turning pages until the very end. And if you do, let’s chat about how it all resolves!
All of these books are by 2021 debut authors and available now. I am furiously reading as many as I can, as quickly as I can. I’ve also read some fantastic Advance Reader Copies (including middle grades!), and I’ll be shouting about those closer to their release days.
Stay tuned for another review roundup soon.