Sunday, January 22, 2023

Jiu-Jitsu Girl

Dutton, Lauren. Jiu-Jitsu Girl
January 24, 2023 by Jolly Fish Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Angie Larson and her mother have just moved to a new town for her mother's job, and Angie has determined that she is going to fit in with the popular kids and not have the same sort of experience as she did at her last school. This is made harder by the fact that her mother is FORCING her to take jiu-jitsu classes. While Angie's mother thinks it will help her build confidence, she's determined that it will not, and has even posted a list of reasons why it is a horrible sport on the chalkboard in their kitchen. She's hopeful that Olivia, a popular girl in her science class, will be her key to popularity, but she gets paired with Carter instead. Carter is a science geek, doesn't care what people think about him, and passed out because of low blood sugar last year, something which people like Olivia don't let him forget. He has a blood glucose monitor and pump that set him apart. Angie likes working with him, and when she goes to his house to work on their project, has fun talking to his scientist mother, and even wonders why talking to Olivia can't be this easy. Meanwhile, at jiu-jitsu, she continues to struggle with a sport she doesn't like and deems unpleasant (to be fair, being choked sounds less than appealing), and is not happy when her mother enters her in a competition. She's also not happy that her mother seems interested in Coach Sweaty Paws (aka Paul), since it's only ever been her and her mother. When one of Olivia's minions, Mina, joins the jiu-jitsu class, Angie is afraid that she will tell Olivia, but Mina also wants to keep her involvement a secret. Angie thinks that being invited to Olivia's birthday party means that she has finally arrived, but Olivia shows her true colors. Of course, Angie has already denied her friendship with Carter, which hurts his feelings. How will Angie be able to balance her friendships, relationship with her mother, and involvement with jiu-jitsu?
Strengths: Friend drama is a subject often requested by my students. I maintain that it's nearly impossible to get through middle school without losing at least one friend, so tweens love to see how other people handle the difficulties of finding and maintaining friends. Carter is a great character who is comfortable in his own skin, and I'm always glad to meet characters like this. Olivia is a typical mean girl, who still manages to have everyone wanting to be her friend. Addie's relationship with her mother is described just enough; middle schoolers are still heavily reliant on their parents but don't really want to be, so the fact that her mother is making her miserable by forcing her to take a class and then embarasses her by befriending one of the teachers is perfect. I was glad to see that Angie warmed to jiu-jitsu eventually. I can't say that there are any other middle grade novels involving this sport, and very few involving any martial arts! 
Weaknesses: I'm not a huge fan of children being forced to do a sport, either in books or in real life. It's a common theme in books, and certainly sets up a nice conflict, but it was painful to coach children who really weren't interested. The middle school students I am around don't seem to be as invested in popularity as Angie was, but this does add lots of drama. 
What I really think: I'm a big fan of sports books with girls as the main character, and I haven't seen any involving jiu-jitsu. Offer this to sporty readers along with Maraniss' Inaugural Ballers, Blumenthals' updated Let Me Play, Jones' Jayla Jumps In, or Shovan's Takedown to offer a broader view of sports for girls. Now I feel like I need a book with lacrosse! 

1 comment:

  1. The second I saw that this is a mg book about Jiu-jitsu...and that with a girl...I wanted to take a peek at this one. Unique!