Sunday, April 16, 2023

Starting From Scratch

Taylor, Jazz. Starting from Scratch
April 4, 2023 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Janie is very devoted to her schedule, which plans her routines down to the minute. These are disrupted when her mother marries and her new stepmom, Keisha, moves into their house. Janie does acknowledge that she doesn't have it as hard as her new stepsister, Makayla, who has to change schools, but she still struggles with keeping things together. She does get support from her best friend, Dani, but Dani is working through issues as well. Dani identifies as nonbinary, and has used she/them pronouns, but has decided that they/them feels more comfortable. Janie supports this, but Dani does have some trouble at home. Janie's biggest trouble at home is Makayla's cat, Pumpkin, whom she intensely dislikes after having cat-related trauma as a child. At school, Janie enjoys working with the Sunshine Club and doing community service like visiting a local nursing home where she has made several friends. When the position of club president opens up, Janie is excited to run, but when Makayla also decides to do this, it further complicates both school and family life. Will Janie, Makayla, AND Pumpkin all be able to work together to make their new family successful?

Strengths: It's good to see a character acknowledge that cats are evil and want to kill us all. No, it's good to see a WISH novel with cats, since there are a number by J.J. Howard that feature pugs. Janie's devotion to her schedule is handled well by her mother and Keisha, who do try to work with her in a sympathetic way. Janie is not identified with any labels, but does appear to have some neurodivergent characteristics. I especially liked that she was not averse to Keisha or Makayla, and thought that they were in general a good addition to her family, but she still had some issues to work through. This was a well-paced, quick read, and the cat on the cover will entice many readers!
Weaknesses: While it was good to see the inclusion of nonbinary and gay characters, some of the information was presented in more of an "info dump" fashion rather than occurring naturally in the story. 
What I really think: Like Taylor's Meow or Never, this will appeal to readers of WISH novels who want stories a bit lighter on romance but with more diverse characters. WISH novels have long included characters from different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, so it is not surprising that they are now adding LGBTQIA+ characters. These are available in prebinds from Follett, and will probably be appearing in book fairs, where they will be popular choices. 

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