Thursday, April 13, 2023

Amelia Gray is Almost Okay

Brody, Jessica. Amelia Gray is Almost Okay
March 28th 2023 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Amelia and her father move all over the US, and rarely stay in one place for more than a month. She has a mixed breed dog named Biscotti, and wants desperately to know what mix of breeds he is. Her father "reinvents" struggling hotels, designing rooms, doing renovations, and generally helps the owner be prepared to improve business. Amelia has attended public schools, but it's hard to make connections when you are only in a place for four weeks. The newest project is a hotel in Summerville, New York. The owner, Annabelle, inherited the property from her father, and tried to run it while she was also running a historic theater in town. Neither venture was successful. She lost the hotel, and it was torn down, and a new and mysterious building is being built in its place. Amelia has always been happy to move and to live "life on the go" with her father, and is dismayed when she hears him discussing their lifestyle with Annabelle. Amelia's mother died when she was born, and she isn't sad for what she never had, so she's a bit angry that her father is thinking of changing things without asking her. Is he dating Annabelle? He also tells Amelia she has to do an activity over the summer so she can get out and meet other kids her age. Amelia still doesn't know what her "thing" is, although she's sure (after a disastrous elementary school event) that it isn't theater. She decides that she will try three different personalities out, in the same way that her father tries out room designs. She's Amie, who loves track, Mellie, who does investigative journalism, and Lia, who does theater with Annabelle. Thanks to the assortment of costumes left over from the theater that Annabelle lets her borrow, she is able to pull off these three identities. She makes friends in each area, including Esme in track and Katarina, who writes for the local paper. Since everyone in the small town hangs out at the Float and Boat ice cream parlor, there are some close calls, but she manages to keep up the ruse for most of the summer. She does tell the truth to Finn, whom she meets in the dog park, and whose "thing" is drawing comics and hanging out with his rescue dog, Ketchup. When Katarina and Amelia uncover a story about the theater and the building project that links it to Esme's parents, the town is in an uproar. At the same time, Amelia's father is ready to give up on trying to make Annabelle happy with his designs, and decides to pack up and move along. Amelia, who visited the house her father was interested in buying and is finding connecting with other kids her own age rather enjoyable, isn't sure that this is the best plan for the two of them. Will they return to Summerville, or continue their life on the go?
Strengths: Books about personal identity are always a huge hit with my students, who are themselves trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do. I loved that Amelia's choices included the sorts of things I encourage my students to do every summer: something physical, something academic, and something creative! While Amelia starts out being a little irritated with her father, she hasn't complained about her life or spent a lot of time mourning the mother she never had, and she takes to Summerville pretty well. Young readers need more examples of characters who are flexible and willing to adapt rather than ones who are dead set against any changes in their lives. This was fast paced and fun, and filled with interesting characters. I liked the twist at the end with the building project, and loved how Amelia's father got involved and made things better for the community. Like Wientge's Best Friends, Bikinis, and Other Summer Catastrophes, this is a great middle grade book with a fun summer adventure. 
Weaknesses: In a town as small as Summerville, clip on bangs are not going to make Amelia unrecognizable to Katarina, and I found it hard to believe that she was able to keep up the ruse for so long. It also was a little hard to believe that Amelia would have been enrolled in public schools for just a month at a time. She wouldn't have made it into the yearbook, certainly, even without a picture. 
What I really think: Since Kimmel's The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt was published about the time that Amelia was born, I guess we can use another middle great tale of inventing multiple personalities. While I feel that this idea of trying to be different people might have several different iterations, it's still a fun read, and will be very popular with my students. 
 Ms. Yingling


  1. I like the idea of trying on identities, since that is what most of us do at Amelia's age. And moving is a difficult thing for kids, and it's not something many books deal with.

  2. I hadn't really thought about flexible characters before but that is definitely true - so many books start out with rebellion against moving, against having boarders, against a new step-parent or sibling, against going somewhere boring for the summer. Oh dear, maybe I identify more with these negative characters?