Reading Level: Middle Grade
Paperback: 202 pages
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Source: ARC sent from publisher (HUGE thanks to Bell Bridge Books!)
Cover: I'm not one hundred percent sure how to judge this. I wouldn't pick the book up but that's because I don't often read MGs. From what I know about MGs, most covers are drawn like this and I feel it represents the novel very well. So I like it, but I'm not drawn to it but it's not my genre. Does that make any sense?
First Sentence: "Today is my eleventh birthday and I received the following presents:"
The Mini- Review: I don't usually read MG so I don't have much to go on other than to say that I enjoyed Elaine's voice and watching her grow as a person in that shark tank we call middle school.
The Blurb on the Back of the Book:
Eleven-year-old Elaine Rewitzer is funny, smart and happy being a geek, but when she wins a spot on the Cross Creek Middle School Buccaneers cheerleading squad, she gets totally into her new life. Her best mega-brain friend Bethany warns that Elaine will just become "part of the herd", and her best geek-guy-pal, Tim (who is struggling with nose polyps) feels forgotten.
Will Elaine survive the roller coaster of pre-teen cheerleader fame? Will she win the heart of the cutest boy on the basketball team? Will she confess her "uncool" love for comic books? Will she lose Bethany and Tim's friendship for-evah?
This novel was a stretch for me because I'm not used to reading MG. I feel a little like I'm out on a ledge here looking down but I'm going to review it like I would any other book and if I say something that doesn't pertain to this genre, disregard it!
Elaine's voice really drew me into the story and reading about middle school really brought me back. I thought the book had great voice, a good plot, some cute characters, and a really fun form it was written in.
Elaine was a really great narrator. She was right at that point in her life when she really didn't know much about herself and was just figuring out how to start the process of being who she wants to be. It was really fun watching her transform from the person she thinks she is to the person she might want to be to the person she becomes. She's a pretty nice girl who just wants to have multiple interests. Too bad her interests are on opposite spectrums of the cool-meter. She has a really difficult time figuring out what's really going on and how she should handle the situation but she eventually learns her lesson.
I enjoyed how big of a role Mom played. All the group-ups in this novel were encouraging and really tried to push Elaine to be the best she could. Mom was smart and forgiving and truly was the guiding light. My favorite character was Mean Grandma, who in fact, was really mean at all. She was funny, unique and the one character that really made me like. Plus, I loved hearing her words out of Elaine's mouth. It was too cute.
The plot itself was a little lacking for me. I liked the whole cheerleading pulling her away from who she is thing that Ambrose did a masterful job at illustrating but I felt like the middle dragged a little. Thing went from bad to really bad to a little better to a litter more better to a lot better to really bad for Elaine and I would have liked to see them go from bad to worse to better to terrible. I would have also liked a conclusion with the Dave plot line. Not even a lot more but just maybe him calling and Elaine signing out just so I know that she was left with a lot of good stuff going her way. I wanted her to be rewarded since she seemed to generally learn her lesson!
Another thing that got a bit cumbersome was the diary aspect. I liked a lot of things about it being in diary form-- the fact that we get Elaine's true feeling, we see what she chooses to write and her voice which tells us loads about her. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that everything had to be re-told after the action had happened. For some scenes, I found myself wanting to be there with her, not getting a secondhand account later when all of the good stuff had already been done. This is a risk that is taken when choosing a form like this. It worked for the most part but I sometimes found myself longing to be there with Elaine.
I want to say that this novel does an excellent job of bringing up middle schoolers. Before reading this novel, I'd tucked middle school away in this file in my brain and written in red ink Do NOT Open all over it. This novel brought that file to light. All of a sudden I was remembering how difficult middle school is and how mature you actually are when you get there. I found myself wondering throughout this novel if some of Elaine's observations where a little too advanced but then I remembered my middle school days and realize they weren't. It also made me look harder at the people around me. For instance, I was walking in the mall and saw a herd of middle schoolers walking by, trying to be cool on a Friday night. I really took the time to notice how the girls dressed and carried themselves and when I peered harder, I even saw some boys in the pack (though you really had to look since most of the girls were taller than them, ha!) and how they interacted with the girls. Before reading this story, it was like I had on blinders when it came to that age group. Now, I can see!
Overall, this novel was a great little read that showed a lot of character growth and maturity. I really enjoyed this book and I think I learned a thing or two about being a middle school cheerleader myself!