Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

cover166873-mediumSimon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019

In Maybe He Just Likes You Barbara Dee captures the feel of middle school perfectly. They’re on the line, Mira and her friends, sometimes leaning over into childhood and other times into adolescence. Mila’s body has moved into adolescence of its own accord, and even her green sweater doesn’t do enough to hide the changes she’s not ready for. Her friends, too, are dealing with the changes—or lack thereof–and it’s causing strain in the group. So, when a group of boys begins to give Mila a lot of unwanted attention, she doesn’t know what to make of it or where to turn.

It’s so easy to sympathize with Mira in this story. When everything is new: the shape of your body, the crushes your friends get, the social scene in middle school, it can be hard to determine what’s okay and what’s not. But Mira quickly comes to the conclusion that what’s happening is not okay. Yet, faced with an overwhelmed single mom, distracted teachers and male counselors, she cannot bear to explain. Finally, one night, Mira has the opportunity to retaliate against the leader of the group of boys, and that leads the way to help, learning, and restorative justice.

This book makes an excellent resource for middle school girls and dare I say male middle school teachers and administrators since the painful situations Mira is in are presented in such an unflinching and clear manner. In addition, Barbara Dee presents a realistic situation where the adults are clearly trying to do well by the students and yet Mira has good reasons to fear approaching them. I would hope that the resolution of the story would give any girl faced with this problem the courage to seek help.

I did have one big beef with the book, and it comes at the end, so if you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now. At the same time that Mira is dealing with sexual harassment at school, there are hints that her mother is encountering the same at work. In addition, the small family has some serious financial problems caused by the fact that Mira’s father refuses to pay child support. In the end Mom’s male boss fires her. Although Mira saves the day by pushing her mother in the direction of a new job with a female boss, the conclusion of the sub plot made me want to spit. Mira’s mom gets a new job she loves in a woman-owned business…at an even lower wage.

Suffice it to say my reader’s high in Mira’s success was spoiled by the message that in adult life women are at the mercy of men—whether ex-husbands or bosses—and that in order to be happy they must also be poorly compensated.

My conclusion? This book has a great message as it relates to middle school, and that’s probably reason enough to buy it, because that part of the plot’s masterful. But if my daughter were in middle school, I’d hand it to her with the requirement that we talk through what happened with Mira’s mom after she was finished reading. Unfortunately, I’m guessing most middle school girls won’t share this book with their mom.

I received an advance reader copy of Maybe He Just Likes You from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix

children of jubileeSimon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Refuge City is supposed to be just that—a refuge. But suddenly, the safe haven where Kiandra and Enu have lived since they were tiny has been taken over by Enforcers, and Rosa, Edwy, Zeba, Bobo, Cana, Enu, and Kiandra find themselves running for their lives. Not only that, but everyone expects twelve-year-old Kiandra to know what to do. Kiandra’s a tech genius and great at finding answers, but she’s definitely not used to having anyone depending on her. To Kiandra’s dismay, the others expect her to lead them even when the tech is taken out of the equation, and the stakes could not be higher.

Children of Jubilee is a cracking ending to the Children of Exile series which started with Children of Exile and moved on to Children of Refuge. Click the links to read my reviews of the previous books. Every book builds on the story through the eyes of a different main character, and yet the impeccable tension, pacing, and consideration of the human condition make a strong thread through all of the books.

I enjoyed—as will most middle grade readers, I think—the opportunity to learn about the worlds and cultures within the books and ponder the ethical questions that arose. Each main character, first Rosi, then Edwy, and finally Kiandra, is a hero to be revered who also gained my sympathy. The action kept me reading and the ethics kept me pondering. The questions of ethics are universal ones, and ones particularly suited to this series’ audience, I think. Each book could stand alone, but I think they’re especially satisfying read as a series.

I recommend this series as an addition to libraries, classrooms, and as gifts for middle grade readers who like a gripping, high-stakes, sci-fi tale.

I received a copy of Children of Jubilee in exchange for an honest review.

Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch, book 2: Wrath of the Dragon KingShadow Mountain Publishing, 2018.

Seth is frozen–rendered completely immobile by the fear of the dragon before him. Even his knowledge that this dragon is a friend cannot outweigh the fear that paralyses him. Seth and his sister Kendra may be co-caretakers at Wyrmroost, but only Kendra is immune to dragon fear, and Seth is only protected when he holds her hand. There are a few logistical problems with that, plus it’s embarrassing!

Now Celebrant, the Dragon King, has invited Seth and Kendra to a feast and it’s an invitation they can’t refuse. But Kendra’s immunity to dragon fear once helped her get the better of Celebrant, and that made him her enemy. Will the dragons honor their rules of hospitality at the feast or will Seth and Kendra be risking their lives just to attend?

I came to this preview of the second book of the Dragonwatch series without having read the first book nor any other than the first book in the Fablehaven series. Nevertheless, the world-building in Wrath of the Dragon King is strong, so although there were many characters to be introduced to in a short time, I felt as if I understood the world itself and the challenges the main characters faced right away.

This story will be loved by readers who love magical creatures, lore, and of course, mythical battles. There is magic here, but much of the interest in the tale seems to focus on strategy, cleverness, ancient rules, and societies. Seth and Kendra have a real challenge in front of them. I can’t wait to find out how it ends!

I received a preview of Wrath of the Dragon King from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Lore of Ramridge by Karuna Savoie

Lore of RamridgeThe corn maze at Ramridge Ranch is the talk of the sixth grade. It’s a community tradition to visit the ranch in fall. In fact, folks come from miles around to enjoy some fall fun. But this year there are rumors that children are going missing in the maze—and it’s all the rage for the older kids to boast of having visited. But James isn’t allowed. His parents are adamant that he remain at home and stay safe.

Ignoring his parents, James sneaks off to navigate the maze alone, thinking he’ll only be gone a few hours and they won’t be any the wiser. It doesn’t take long before James realizes he might just have made a terrible mistake.

This creepy novella is the perfect read before Halloween! Karuna Savoie has placed interesting characters into a familiar setting readers can see and smell and even feel. In addition, the plot of this story is no ordinary creepy thriller.  James’ decision will take readers on a thrill ride as they navigate the twists and turns of events at Ramridge Ranch.

Karuna Savoie is an amazingly talented young writer. Fortunately for readers everywhere, she’s got a brain full of story ideas to share with the world. I can’t wait to read the next installment in the Lore of Ramridge series.

Full disclosure: Karuna is a client of my editorial business, so I have had a hand in polishing this book. I don’t write reviews for all of my clients, but Karuna’s amazing imagination and writing skills make The Lore of Ramridge the great read that it is, so I felt I could give an honest review. Keep your eyes on her. She’s a writer who’s going places.