Sunday, July 29, 2018

~ MMGM WHY CAN'T I BE YOU? ~



~ MARVELOUS MIDDLE-GRADE
MONDAY CONTEMPORARY
FICTION FEATURE ~

-- 'WHY CAN'T I BE YOU' --
AUTHOR MELISSA WALKER
~Post Includes Book Spotlight & Review~


ABOUT THE BOOK {from Goodreads}:
 
“This book is for anyone who has ever felt ‘less than’ or on the outside. That is to say, this is a book for everyone.” —Elana K. Arnold, author of What Girls Are Made Of

"With a clear, compelling voice, Walker creates a believable world where socioeconomic tensions challenge, but never defeat, her well-rounded characters."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Claire Ladd knows that this summer is going to be special. She and her two best friends, Ronan and Brianna, are turning twelve. She is leaving camp behind and gets to do what she wants all day. She feels everything starting to change.

But things don’t always change for the better.

With Brianna’s cousin Eden visiting for the summer, Claire feels like a third wheel. Even though she is only a year older, Eden seems so much more sophisticated and glamorous . . . and when she's around, she takes up everyone’s attention, including Brianna’s.

But that doesn’t explain why things have felt awkward with Brianna ever since she moved to a fancy new house, or why Ronan, who lives in the trailer next to Claire’s, has started acting moody anytime anyone mentions his dad.

Claire has always been happy with her life just as it is, but as the summer wears on and the issues with her friends start to grow, she can’t help but wonder: Would everything be better if she could just be someone else?

MY REVIEW:
I love to browse the 'New Book' shelves at the local public library. I especially enjoy wandering into the Children's Section because the new book shelves there are always filled with well, new books!

The shelves are labelled by category: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle-Grade, Non-Fiction, and Biographies. The library's technical processing department adds the appropriate logo sticker to the spine for historical, fantasy, mystery, biography, etc. I love the organization and attention to detail children's librarians give to their presentation of books for their audience--or for grown-ups such as I who love reading from their collection!

This novel is set during summer break and is the first-person narrative of eleven-year-old Claire Ladd. She is the only child of her young parents who divorced when Claire was around two years old.

The main character and her mother live in the Twin Pines Trailer Park, while her father lives in an apartment complex a few minutes away. Claire has regular visitation with her father, and she appears to adore both of her parents.

Claire and her friends are going through the normal tween issues of feeling awkward about the difference between the 'haves and have-nots' as we used to call it. Ronan Michaels, a boy who lives next door to Claire in the trailer park, and Claire spend a lot of time together. Their friendship is long-lasting and strong, but they are both going through some difficult times internally, so they periodically lash out at one another.

Claire's best friend is Brianna Foley whose family is wealthy. The social differences between these two girls is evident, but they have a true bond and most of the time their disparate lifestyles do not seem to have an effect on their relationship.

Things are perking along when Brianna's slightly older cousin, Eden, arrives on the scene. She is almost thirteen and is caught up in the world of fashion, make-up, and being beautiful and cool. Naturally, her presence and domination of Brianna's time make Claire jealous.

Ronan's father suffers from debilitating depression, and Mr. Michaels's inability to relate to his son in any way negatively affects Ronan's feelings about himself and his father. As a classroom teacher for over twenty years, I saw the devastating and profound affect a parent's depression had on a child in more than one instance. I felt the author did an excellent job of addressing this issue in the story. Middle-graders are old enough and sophisticated enough to begin learning about mental health and how it impacts individuals and their families.

Another strong point of this story, in my opinion, was the close relationship Claire has with her mother. It probably helps that Claire helps around the house with chores and appears to be respectful to her mom. Mrs. Ladd is a cleaning woman, and she works six days per week to provide for the two of them. 

When mother and daughter are talking they actually listen to each other. When Claire begins gossiping or criticizing others, her mother recites the cleaning lady's motto:  "We may know other people's bathrooms, but we don't know their real stories." {page 61}.

Overall, I felt this was an enjoyable story with lots of interesting characters and events. There was some bullying and teasing along the lines of what seems typical in this age group. There are some ruffled feathers and hurt feelings amongst the friends, but I venture to say this is true in friendships at any age. {At least that's been my experience.}

Mostly, this is a story about friendship, letting go of initial impressions, learning to let go of jealousy, and being true to yourself, your family, and your friends. My favorite thing about this book is that kindness prevailed in almost every situation, and I believe this world sorely needs more kindness.

I look forward to reading more middle-grade books written by this talented author.

Recommended to fans of clean middle-grade fiction, friendship stories, stories with an assortment of well-developed and diverse characters, and summertime fiction!

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Borrowed from the 'New Books' shelves at the local public library.

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COMING UP SOON ON 'READING, WRITING & STITCH-METIC':
--  For August:  My blog calendar is filling up with great posts featuring MMGM middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, Christian fiction and non-fiction, historical fiction, romantic suspense. Of course, there will be loads of good reads and giveaways!
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14 comments:

  1. This sounds really good and perfect for middle school! Thank you so much for sharing it!

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    Replies
    1. Welcome, Jill ~ Thanks for posting your positive comments here. Hope you visit again soon. Sincerely, June

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  2. This book sounds wonderful—just from reading the review, I'm already concerned about the characters! Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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    1. Greetings ~ You're welcome for the recommendation! I felt this author's writing does engage the reader quickly. It's my pleasure to share great books here on 'Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic'. Take care, June

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  3. So much to like with the themes in this book. It should help many tweens going through some of the same emotions. Thanks for finding and sharing this one.

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    1. Hi, Greg ~ Thanks for your positive remarks about my post. I felt the author did an excellent job of including lots of what is good about kids at this age--kindness, respect, compassion. Regards, June

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  4. I loved Walker's Let's Pretend We Never Met-- haven't we all had that "friend" that we wish we could separate from?
    (http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/2017/06/mmgm-lets-pretend-we-never-met.html)

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    Replies
    1. Welcome, and thank you for posting a link to your review of another Melissa Walker novel. I haven't read it yet, but now that I've discovered Ms. Walker's writing style I will add it to my TBR list. Best, June

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  5. I like that the characters live in a trailer park, except for Brianna. I haven't seen this in a MG novel. There are so many themes in this story. And, I like they touch on jealousy and a father's depression. Great review.

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    1. Hello, Patricia ~ Thanks for the compliment; I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I love books that have layers and layers of themes which are revealed slowly as the plot moves along. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts here. Best wishes, June

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  6. I love finding new books in the library like you did. This sounds like a great book that I'm sure a lot of tween readers can relate to.

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    1. Hi, Natalie ~ I think the best thing about 'browsing' at the library is that it doesn't cost a thing to take something home! I figure I've saved tens of thousands of dollars in my lifetime by checking out books, magazines, CDs/DVDs/Videos/Cassettes, etc. from the public library wherever I'm living at the time! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Take care, June

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  7. Young readers need to read these kinds of messages. I'd say this was a perfect summer read.

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    1. Thanks, Lee. I agree with your comments. I appreciate your stopping by my blog. Take care, June

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