Monday, August 07, 2017

MMGM- The Real Us

31145015Greenwald, Tommy. The Real Us.
August 8th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

I'm not entirely sure that the person who wrote the publisher's description actually read the book. The book is much more nuanced.

Calista Getz is that girl. Not only is she pretty, but she's super nice and loves to play soccer. She has found herself saddled with two friends she doesn't particularly like, Ella and Ellie, and while she enjoys being popular a little bit, she would much rather hang out with her friend Laura. Laura, meanwhile, has made a new friend in Rachel, who is very bubbly and who supports Laura when she is feeling less than positive about herself, which is a fairly rare occurrence, but does happen. When middle school starts up again, Calista finds herself being pushed toward Patrick, who is the boy equivalent of her-- attractive, smart, and polite. He's okay, but she doesn't want to like him just because he's good looking, no matter what Ella and Ellie say. She's actually more intrigued by the quiet Damien, a tall kid with a penchant for wearing a red jacket all of the time.

Calista has a bad day. She gets a zit on her nose, panics, pops it, and covers it with concealer. The concealer makes her break out in hives all over her face. To top it off, she goes to talk to Patrick, and he accidentally elbows her in the face, making her nose bleed and her eyes turn black! She is not surprised at all when Patrick doesn't want to go to the dance with her. Ella and Ellie turn on her and talk behind her back, but Laura is supportive. I loved how the adults around her made Calista continue with her regular activities-- the sympathetic school nurse tells her she has to go back to class because the last time she checked, she was "still a student", and her mother makes her go dress shopping! There's a bit of a misunderstanding with Damien and Laura-- they arrange to meet at the dance, but Calista asks him to the dance afterwards and he freezes. Luckily, all of the children involved are level headed and figure things out without the situation devolving into too much drama.

That's what I loved the most about this book. Middle school DOES have a lot of drama, but middle grade literature seems to report it in stereotypical, boring ways. The pretty girl is always mean. The sports loving best friend never gets the boy. People have misunderstandings and don't work them out until pages later. For example, after Damien says yes to Calista, Laura asks him why. He replies that he likes her. When she asks why Damien also said yes to her, he replies that he likes her, too. Her reply to that? "Correct answer." As I read the book, I was constantly pleasantly surprised by the characters' reactions, because they were fresh and yet I could completely see some of my students acting the same way.

This book is told from the points of view of several characters, and while I'm not the biggest fan of this format, it worked in this case. We understand the artistic Damian's struggles with hyperhydrosis (he sweats a LOT and takes medication to try to control it), we witness Patrick's confusion, and we are privy to Laura's sadness that Calista is friends with nitwits and wants to stop playing soccer. We also get wonderful moments with Calista when she practices writing HER OWN NAME over and over in a notebook, and when her language arts teacher tells her that it's a good thing she wants to drop soccer, because girls shouldn't play sports. It's sarcasm, of course, but it does the job and gets Calista back on the field.

I've been a huge fan of Greenwald's work since the very first Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide, but this book takes his work to another level. The voices are authentic but unusually fresh, the school situations realistic and moving, and the characters' interactions with each other perfect examples of the type of behavior and attitude that we try to teach children. Showing by example and making kids laugh-- it's what I want from every middle grade novel I read. Greenwald delivers all of this perfectly.
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8 August Maria’sMelange -Guest Post
9 August Log Cabin Library Review
10 August- Diary of a Happy Librarian - Review
11 August Always in the Middle - Guest Post

14 August- Randomly Reading- Review
15 August One Great BookReview
16  August-Unleashing Readers - Giveaway
17  August Mr. D. ReadsInterview

18  August Tommy Greenwald- Grand Finale and Giveaway

10 comments:

  1. You make pre-teen drama sound good. Thanks for the heads up. We're always looking for something fresh.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on The Real Us. I'm also a fan of Tommy Greenwald and can't wait to read this one. It sounds great!

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  3. This one is on the top of my list of new releases to read ASAP. Looking forward to Tommy stopping by my blog this Friday. Thanks for your uplifting thoughts on his newest.

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  4. Had not heard of this book before! Thanks for putting it on my radar, I'll be on the lookout.

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  5. It does sound realistic, Karen, not the usual stereotypical response from young adolescents. After teaching this age for so long, there's drama every day, but that's how they grow up, right, learning the kind of person they want to be. Thanks for the review.

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  6. The Real Us sounds so good. I'm with you on seeing middle graders portrayed in realistic ways that goes beyond the stereotypes. I also like that these kids sound like ones other teens could learn from. I'll definitely be looking for this one!

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  7. This book sounds like it has a lot of reasons for me to read it! I definitely will try it. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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  8. Preteen drama has always been popular with my students! I'll have to check it out!

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  9. Putting this one on my "to get it list" - thanks for the great review!

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  10. I haven't read any Tommy Greenwood, but your review makes me want to read this one!

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