Sunday, November 01, 2020

Stick With Me

Blecher, Jennifer. Stick With Me
November 3rd 2020 by Greenwillow Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Izzy and her best friend Phoebe always had a lot of fun doing silly things, but now that they are in middle school, Phoebe has little patience for Izzy's "out of the box" ways, especially now that she would rather spend her time with the popular but mean Daphne. Izzy is trying to navigate her feelings about this change, and they are complicated by her family problems. Her parents are both entrepreneurs; her father is trying to market an anti-technology app, and her mother wants to get back into home decorating as a profession. Wren's life is also difficult. She is a figure skater, but the sport has become more of a chore than a joy as competition has become fierce and her skills are lagging behind. It doesn't help that her younger sister, Hannah, is struggling with severe epilepsy and requires lots of doctors' appointments. Her father, a hockey coach, tries to be supportive, but her mother is very much invested in her sister's progress. When Hannah has to have brain surgery in Boston and will be in the hospital for quite some time, the family rents a house... Izzy's house. Izzy's family is cash strapped and looking to make a few dollars, so they list their house on a rental site and plan to live in an apartment over the garage during Izzy's spring break. Both girls are vaguely angry about this situation, so reluctant to connect, but both end up at a theater camp at Izzy's school...with Phoebe AND Daphne. Daphne continues her mean behavior, and Wren helps Izzy understand that it's not okay, and helps her stand up for herself. When Wren makes some bad choices, Izzy helps her out, and both girls learn a bit about dealing with friends and also about dealing with themselves.
Strengths: I tell my students that middle school is a time when they are almost certain to lose at least one friend. Interests change, personalities morph, and social pressures become insistent drivers of change. My best friend in 7th grade (oddly enough, named Jenny!) completely ghosted me at the beginning of 8th. It's good for readers to see this reflected in novels. I appreciated that the problems that both Wren and Izzy face are realistic, not tragic, but difficult for them all the same. Parents' attention being drawn away, financial difficulties, and school drama will all speak to readers. Oliver was an intriguing character who could have been even more involved, and Hannah's illness was covered with just enough detail. This felt a bit like Walker's Let's Pretend We Never Met, which has been hugely popular in my library.
Weaknesses: Wren's bad choice seemed reasonable, but also a little out of character. I was expecting the dramatic moment to come from Hannah's situation.
What I really think: Friend drama is ALWAYS a big draw, so I will definitely purchase this. The cover is really fun; stickers are definitely a big thing with elementary students and younger middle school ones.

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