February 5th 2013 by Simon & Schuster BFYR
Nate has always loved musical theater, even though it has gotten him in trouble with his own jockish brother as well as bullies at school who like to fling terms like "fag" and "homo" at him, even though Nate declares that he's too young to declare his sexual preferences in any direction at all. When his best friend Lily finds out that open auditions are being held for the part of Elliot in a Broadway production of E.T., Nate knows that he has to give it a try. With Lily's help, he figures out how to get from his home outside Pittsburgh to New York, and makes it to the auditions after a series of mishaps. He is met by his aunt Heidi, whom his mother doesn't like, after Lily rats him out to her, but Heidi (a failed actress herself) is very helpful. Nate goes through the auditions with some success, only to find that he needs to stay in New York, which is going to run him into problems at home. Nate decides that he really likes New York and theater culture, and sees some hope for his future there. Will he make the final cut before his parents find him out?
Strengths: This offers a lot of practical information about what it is like to try out for a Broadway production. Nate's running away is well thought out and realistic; dangers are not necessarily present, but not glossed over. The treatment of Nate's sexuality is perfect for a middle grade novel-- he is interested to see two boys kiss and not be bullied in New York and finds a male friend of his aunt's somewhat attractive, but he doesn't over think it because he doesn't want to really consider kissing anyone at this point in his life.
Weaknesses: As I have said before, my students seem to have zero interest in the theater. As much as they love Zadoff's Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have, I can't get anyone to read My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies. Also, knowing how cruel middle school boys can be to each other, and how they love to fling about accusations of being "gay", I would have put Nate in a slightly more masculine pose on the cover. Why default to stereotypes? (Says the librarian in the cardigan and pleated skirt...)
Patterson, James and Papademetriou, Lisa. Middle School #3: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar.
18 March 2013, Little, Brown
Told from the point of view of Georgia, Rafe Khatchadorian's younger sister. Georgia is starting middle school at the same school where her brother was notorious enough to get kicked out, so all of her teachers immediately suspect that she will be just as bad. Right away, the "princesses" of the school make fun of Georgia, but she still rather wants to be with them. Instead, she is befriended by Rhonda, who is very supportive, but Georgia thinks she is loud and weird. Georgia is in a band (even though she doesn't really know how to play guitar), and when Rafe signs the band up to play for the school, Georgia starts to panic. Even though Georgia claims she is nothing like Rafe, she manages to get into trouble all on her own.
Strengths: Undeniable appeal for students who like notebook novels or this series. Nice to see a change in point of view. I normally really like Papademetriou's writing.
Weaknesses: Found this disappointing, mainly because it was so mean. Georgia doesn't treat Rhonda any better than the "princesses" treat her. Also, if teachers have a really bad student, and a sibling comes along, we are hugely relieved if the sibling if well-behaved, and don't immediately assume the child will be bad. Papademetriou usually has a better feel for middle school, so I'm assuming Patterson had a lot of input into the outline and character development of this.