Darling, Angela. Maddie's Camp Crush
7 May 2013, Simon Spotlight
Maddie is a bit leery about going away to camp for six weeks. In the past, her father made the trip there fun, and encouraged her to enjoy it, but since he passed away, Maddie worries about her mother being alone. Her friends at camp have changed a bit too-- the girls in her cabin start getting up early and doing their hair and make up because they see the boys at breakfast. Maddie has her eye on Gabriel, a very cute British boy, but all of the girls seem to like him. He makes some overtures to her as well, but she's just not sure what to make of them. First crushes can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and Maddie is dealing with enough change that she's not ready to act on her crush.
Strengths: Well, who wouldn't be crushing on Gabriel? He sounds dreamy. And the camp friendships seem very realistic for middle school. This will be a popular series in middle school (See #1, Lauren's Beach Crush) because they are light, easy to read, and show a good understanding of how middle school girls think.
Weaknesses: Less satisfying romance than the first book, since Maddie and Gabriel never have their moment of standing in the sunset hand in hand. A bit more angsty, what with Maddie grieving for her father. Not a bad thing, just a bit sad for a romance.
Darling, Angela. Lindsay's Surprise Crush.
23 July 2013, Simon Spotlight
Lindsay and Nick have been friends since birth, since their mothers were in a "pregnant-lady-exercise class" together. They've been out of touch over the summer before 7th grade, though, and when Lindsay sees Nick on the first day of school, she's really surprised. He's grown six inches and gotten really cute. He's now the star of the soccer team and apparently dating Cassidy, who is also a good soccer player, very cute, and rather stuck up. Lindsay misses Nick, but she's also mad at him. He's not answering her texts, and seems to be enjoying his new found popularity a bit much. He surprises Lindsay by telling her that one of the 8th graders on his soccer team, Troy, wants to take her to the school dance. Lindsay is trying to find her own way in 7th grade, has some friend problems, but thinks about more than just herself when she introduces Mexican exchange student Claudia to Cassidy in the hope that Claudia will be able to play soccer, as she had done at home. Will Lindsay go to the dance with Troy, or is there someone else who is interested in taking her... someone she has known her whole life?
Strengths: Again, very realistic interchanges between middle school students, and appealing characters. I liked that Lindsay took an interest in other people, and was shown as being very compassionate to Cassidy even after Cassidy was mean to her. Lots of good soccer details, as well.
Weaknesses: Probably a scenario that happens very few times in the real world, but an appealing thought. I don't know that there are any middle school foreign exchange students, though.