Marisa has the most enormous crush on Derek, but he is going out with someone else. She gets on with her life-- hanging out with her friend Sterling, who likes to cook, dealing with her combative younger sister Sandra, being confused about her parents' relationship (which is quickly disintegrating), dealing with her anxiety disorder, and hanging out with her friend, Nash. When Nash confesses that he likes Marisa, things get uncomfortable when she doesn't return the feeling. Eventually, Derek goes out with her, but is he the one in whom she is really interested?
Strengths: After reading So Much Closer and finding it appropriate for middle school, I knew I would have to read more of these books. A lot of my 8th grade girls crave romance books and will only read Nicholas Sparks. They will find these books, with their crushes, pining, and eventual resolutions perfect.
Weaknesses: Too painful for me to enjoy. I hated reading about how much of a crush Marisa had on Derek-- because I have been there. Luckily, that was 30 odd years ago and I have recovered. I guess it's a sign of good writing that the books can make me uncomfortable. Definitely buy
ing whichever ones of these are middle school appropriate.
And here are some books that didn't work for me or my library, but I can definitely see them working at different levels:
Meehl, Brian. You Don't Know About Me.
From the Publisher: " Billy has spent his almost-sixteen years with four cardinal points--Mother, Christ, Bible, and Home-school--but when he sets off on a wild road trip to find the father he thought was dead, he learns much about himself and life."
What I Wanted: A rollicking road trip book with lots of action and humor.
Why This Didn't Work For Me: I was about half way through the book, and really enjoying it, when I realized it was too introspective for middle school. While I can get kids to read gently humorous quirky books for a while, this clocks in at 406 pages. Given it's personal identity theme, this would be great for high school. I adore this author's Suck It Up, and his writing style is great. Also, the cover is perfect.
People who liked this include: Publishers Weekly, Jessica Max Stein, YA Reads, A Crowe's Nest, and Kirkus Reviews.
Watson, Paul E. The Robot.
From the Publisher: " Science-loving Gabe and girl-crazy Dover are best friends. In fact, they're practically each other's only friends. So when Gabe's parents leave town for the weekend, he lets Dover convince him to break into his father's basement laboratory-even though he knows it's off-limits under penalty of lifelong grounding. Once inside, the boys make a shocking discovery, one that will turn a boring weekend into a hilarious madcap adventure: a smoking hot robot"
What I Wanted: A rollicking science geek book with lots of action and humor.
Why This Didn't Work For Me: *Snerk* While this cracked me up, it was not appropriate for me to hand to middle school students. Underaged drinking and salacious interest in the robot... I handed this to Surly Teen Boy, who seemed to enjoy it, but it was crass, which is exzactly why the actual teen boys will like it!
Paratore, Coleen Murtagh. From Willa, With Love.
From the Publisher: "As summer comes to a close on Cape Cod, Willa finds herself dealing with bad news from her best friend, a surprising secret from her brother, an unexpected crush, and last minute wedding plans."
This is the fifth book in The Wedding Planner's Daughter series.
What I Wanted: Girlfriend Material with a touch of Along for the Ride.
Why This Didn't Work For Me: While this does have some romance, it is more about Willa's interaction with her close-knit community. I enjoyed this to a certain extent, but the first book in the series is not much read, so I haven't invested in it. Willa did get irritating at some points, not just because Willa has long been a name I've had tucked up my sleeve for a character! If this series is popular in your library, it would be a must have.