Sunday, December 20, 2020

Meow or Never

Taylor, Jazz. Meow or Never
January 5th 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Avery and her father and older brother Andrew have finally moved out of an apartment into a house. Her mother left when she was very young. While Avery is glad that her father has a better job, he is busier, and it's been difficult for her to make friends because of her crippling social anxiety. She really likes Nic, who is very friendly, but is embarrassed by interactions in the past where she couldn't say anything. When a classmate, Harper, writes a play and wins a contest with it, the school starts practicing for a production of it. Nic overhears Avery singing and presses her to audition for a role, although this causes Avery to have a panic attack. The school nurse helps Avery calm down, but has to call her father. She gets the lead role of Juliet, and works with Nic to learn lines and also deal with her anxiety. She finds an abandoned kitten behind the school and makes it a cozy home, taking great comfort in the animal. When Harper realizes Avery is taking care of a cat, the two try to locate the owner. Harper seems to be having trouble at home; she often does not have lunch and is afraid to go home to her mother sometimes. As the play progresses, Nic and Harper start to hang out with Avery more, but she's still worried that they think she is odd. It doesn't help that Avery "like likes" Nic; she has only told her uncle that she likes girls, but her brother Andrew figures this out and tries to support her. Harper also can tell that Avery likes Nic, and tells Avery not to be shy; she might be surprised to learn how Nic feels. The play, the cat, her feelings for Nic-- this is all a lot. How will Avery be able to handle everything?
Strengths: Friend drama is always a popular topic for my students, and this is on trend for including topics of anxiety, challenging home situations, and emerging sexuality in a middle grade focused way. The play is worked into the plot in an engaging way. Nic is a very understanding friend, and I enjoyed that her family was very different from Avery's. Andrew, Avery's brother, is a great and supportive character as well. The details about the calming effects of animals are great, and the cover is super adorable. 
Weaknesses: I wish that Avery's father already had her in therapy. It's not something you ask your child to do. If that child has to work with the nurse to deal with panic attacks, you tell them to do it, and if costs are a problem, you work with the school counselor to figure something out. This is especially important if the child also might have lingering concerns about the mother leaving. I also had concerns for the cat's welfare. That said, my own daughter once kept a cat in her closet for two days before I realized it, so this is VERY true to life!
What I really think: The WISH novels are super popular in my library, and it's good to see one with an LGBTQIA+ focus. Will definitely purchase.

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