Sunday, February 13, 2022

Abby in Between: Ready or Not

Bryant, Megan. Abby in Between: Ready or Not
February 15th 2022 by Penguin Workshop
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Abby's best friend is her cousin Zoe, whose family is moving from North Carolina to California for the father's new job. She has given Zoe stationery to match some that she has, with flamingos on it (an inside joke), but Zoe is given her own phone to keep in touch with friends, and at nine, Abby's mother says she is too young and has to wait until 8th grade. With fourth grade just starting, this seems like forever! Abby doesn't have the teacher that she wanted, and there are more changes at home. Her mother is going back to work as a paralegal because Abby's father has lost his job. Money will be tight, and Abby has been enrolled in an after school running club. Since she hates to run, she begs to be allowed to go with her father on his part time, gig economy jobs, but is shot down. Running makes her sweat, and she is keenly aware that she now smells. She's been given deodorant, and is also worried about her developing breasts, since she had an aunt who had a concern about cancerous lumps. Her mother takes her to the doctor for reassurrance. Zoe doesn't answer her letters, her mother is often busy with work, and she struggles with making friends, although there is one girl in the running club with whom she gets along. After breaking her toe and ending up in a walking boot, Abby is allowed to design the t shirt for the club's upcoming 5K race, and she throws herself into fundraising for it, especially since it's raising money for a tiny house community. When she is able to run, she realizes that it's not so bad. The book ends on a happy note, with Abby coming to terms with the changes in her life. 

Deodorant was nifty in the '70s. 
: If you believe the diary I kept in fourth grade, I was mesmerized with the idea of deodorant and shaving my legs (which Abby does not mention), so Abby's concerns are very realistic. I especially loved the fact that she felt she HAD to wear a certain sweater on the first day of school even though it was 90 degrees; I did the same thing in 6th grade! Her relationship with her young brother is also well portrayed; he annoys her, but she cares about him and tries to be nice. The running club is why I picked this up. Having worked with Girls on the Run, I'm all for encouraging younger students to try running, and was glad to see that Abby came to appreciate the sport. Her cousins absence, and Abby's longing to get a letter from her, will resonate with readers who have had a friend move away. This was a great novel for elementary students that I would have enjoyed a lot when I was in elementary school. 
Weaknesses: There were parts of this book that made it feel like it was written longer ago. Abby's mother going back to work was a big deal; I went back to work 20 years ago, and my children didn't blink. It seemed odd to take a child to the doctor just for questions about puberty, and Abby's mother talked about "getting measured" for a bra. I don't remember that ever happening (except for my grandmother's corsets-- yes, corsets!) forty five years ago when I was Abby's age. I just bought my own daughters sports bras and put them in with their laundry when I thought the need was arising soon, so there was a lot less drama! That could just be a family difference. 
What I really think: If this involved a 12-14 year old, and the concerns were just slightly different (I'm thinking more friend drama, and possibly some romantic drama), I would definitely buy it. It's just slightly too young for my students, but would be a great choice for elementary libraries, where younger and younger girls have questions and concerns about puberty. 

Ms. Yingling

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