Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Vivian Lantz's Second Chances

Ormsbee, Kathryn. Vivian Lantz's Second Chances
June 13, 2023 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Vivian has ALWAYS had bad first days of school. One of the worst ones was when she and her fathers and brother Arlo moved from Chicago to Texas in third grade, and she didn't know the song "Deep in the Heart of Texas". Now, everyone associates her with that day. In 7th grade, she got food poisoning from bad turkey bacon, but at least she had her best friend Cami to help her. Now, Cami has moved away, and Vivian has to start 8th grade all alone. She has a plan, though, that she's written in the hyacinth themed journal that Cami gave her; she's being more deliberate about her clothing choices, wants to get in with the popular Amberleigh's crowd, and wants cute Alex to notice her. Things don't start well. She wakes up to the sound of Arlo dealing with a leak in the roof (their dads run the Be Kind, Rewind resale shop, and the family lives above it), her dog makes a mess on the carpet, and she doesn't get breakfast. Arlo drives her to school and they get stuck in traffic, and she has a collision with Gemma that ends up with Vivian covered in mud. She's late for assembly, and later talks to her teacher about joining the school newspaper, only to them trip on a cord and destroy the teacher's aquarium. To make matters worse, she gets her period in school. She ends up, miserable, in the nurses office, and has her dads pick her up. Arlo decides that this is a good day to leave home to tour with his rock band. It's officially the worst day ever. The only good thing in her life is the Revelande book series, and for her birthday, her dads have gotten a taped message from the author, promising that Vivian can be in control of her own destiny. She's thinking about that as she goes to bed on that terrible day, wishing that she could relive it and make it right. When she wakes up the next morning, Arlo is once again dealing with a water leak. Realizing that she's in a time loop, Vivian tries to be more prepared. She takes supplies with her for her period, redirects Arlo through traffic, and manages to talk to Gemma rather than run into her. She even gets invited to a party at with the cool kids, but still there are plenty of things that are disatrous. Since she gets several more attempts at the day, she hopes that she can eventually fix everything. After six days, when things still aren't going right, she reaches out to Cami to see if they can figure out how to make 8th grade a success and avoid pitfalls like banana pudding and pockets full of dog poop. Will they succeed?
Strengths: Yep. We've all had those moments, which is why Seventeen Magazine ran a "Was My Face Red!" column for years. There's something about reading about other people's bad moments that is somehow comforting. So insecure about your outfit that you kept your sweater on the entire day and almost passed out from the heat? Tame compared to being covered in mud. The way that Vivian tried to rectify her mistakes was realistic, and her interactions with Gemma, Alex, and Amberleigh all changed in satisfactory ways. Alex turns out to be a bit of a jerk, Amberleigh is not nice, but Vivian eventually stands up to her, and Vivian realizes that she has a crush on Gemma. This works out because Gemma has come out to her friends as queer, and part of her problems with them is that they didn't accept that. I loved the vintage shop and wished we had seen more of it, and Vivian's connection with Cami was well done; now that kids have cell phones, they are able to keep in touch with friends in a way that wasn't possible even fifteen years ago. Throw in a little bit of fantasy fandom and fanfiction writing, and you've got a winner of a middle grade book. 
Weaknesses: At one point, Vivian toasts and butters a PopTart. Is that something people do? Also, a girl in the school clinic is given a cup of Pepto Bismal to drink; maybe clinics in Texas can give out medication, but here in Ohio the best the nurse can do is bandages and peppermint candy. The magic that made the day repeat was a tiny bit vague, but the execution was great, so I didn't mind. 
What I really think: I can only think of one other middle grade timeloop book, Bearce's Paris on Repeat, although Thayer's excellent The Double Life of Danny Day gives Danny one chance to repeat his days. This will be a big hit, although I wish the cover had looked a bit older. The cartoon style graphics on YA books are throwing me off, and I think this cover still reads a bit young. Definitely purchasing, though!                                                                         

Everett, Sarah. The Probability of Everything
June 27, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kemi has a good life and a very supportive family. Her little sister, Lo, is a handful but very endearing, her artist mother is tired because she is expecting, but still takes time to spend with Kemi, and her mother's sister and mother are close by to support the family and share their Nigerian background and culture. Kemi is especially fond of her father, who encourages her love of numbers and statistics, and has recently quit his office job to follow his dreams. While the family is at home on a Sunday morning watching television, startling news comes on-- there is an asteroid headed to earth, and the probability that it will hit the earth and destroy everything is almost 90%. Kemi and her sister are taken to her aunt's house while their parents make some plans. Kemi wants to go to school to keep her perfect attendance, but her mother says she needs to stay home. To pass the time until the asteroid hit, she starts a time capsule so that her family can be remembered. She manages to get something from everyone but her father, but he can't quite decide what he loves best and wants to include. As the time counts down, we find out that Kemi's story is really more like Reynold's Izzy at the End of the World or Malienko's This Appearing House. I don't want to ruin the twists and turns that this one takes. I love that it addresses serious racial issues and contemporary concerns about gun violence and loss, and Kemi is a great character, but the allegorical nature will make it hard for some young readers to understand. This might be good as a class read or literature circle. Read this for yourself and see if you think it would be a good fit for your library collection. 

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Wishing Season
June 27, 2023 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's summer, and Lily would normally be spending all of her time outside, playing with her twin brother Anders. Sadly, Anders had gotten ill and passed away suddenly. Lily is struggling with this, and her mother is so submerged in her own grief that she is not much help. Lily can still communicate with Anders in "the overlap", but starts to realize that this area is becoming smaller and smaller, and she fears that soon she will not be able to talk to her brother at all. How will she be able to cope with this major loss yet again? 

Like McDunn's When Sea Becomes Sky, this addresses loss in a poetic and fantastical way, and will be a big hit with teachers and librarians who love books like The Thing About Jellyfish or Polisner and Baskin's Seven Clues to Home. This is very different from this author's Anna Banana series or her fantastic Hide and Don't Seek


  1. Maybe Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass?

    1. Anonymous8:55 PM EDT

      Just the book I was about to bring up! My patrons have really enjoyed that one.