Monday, September 11, 2023

MMGM- Maid for It and Flight Plan

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Sumner, Jamie. Maid for It
September 5, 2023 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Franny and her mother are just getting by. Her mother, who has been hospitalized several times for addiction but who has been clean for a while, cleans houses, drives for Uber, and sells craft projects on Etsy to make ends meet. They are fortunate enough to have a low cost apartment over a laundromat run by Mimi, who also runs an AA meeting and helps Franny and her mother out. Franny is used to carefully monitoring her mother and taking care that she eats and doesn't relapse into addiction. She puts up with a lot at school, including the evil Sloan, who looks down her nose at everything Franny does ever since Franny did better on a math assignment than she did. When Franny gets called to the office in the middle of class, she knows it can't be good; she's been called before. This time, Mimi tells her that her mother was in a car accident. It wasn't high and it wasn't her fault, although that is Franny's first question. Her mother's femur is broken, and after surgery to install a pin, she is on a morphine drip for pain. She doesn't want to be in charge of her own medication, but Mimi and Franny are both very concerned. When her mother comes home, she has physical therapy, and since the doctor handed the oxycodone to Franny, she hides it carefully away. She doesn't want her mother to suffer, but doesn't want her to have easy access to the drugs. Franny realizes that they have no income since their car is totalled and her mother can't clean, so she decides to pick up her mother's cleaning jobs herself. It's not easy work, but she brings home money, and saves it in her emergency fund. Of course, things at school slide a bit, and eventually she gets paired with someone for tutoring... and it's Sloan. After she sees Sloan cheating on a math test, she ropes her nemesis into helping her clean. Franny is able to keep things going, even after one of the young men in the AA group shows up at their apartment high and steals her emergency fund. She gets it back, but is angry and even more concerned that her mother will backslide. Living a life that has such a fragile balance is wearing to Franny, and having an unexpected friend in Sloan helps. Will Franny ever be able to trust her mother?
Strengths: I read this at a time (right before school let out for summer!) that nothing was making me happy, and I found myself really enjoying this one. Not only that, but it was easy to remember the plot. The friendship with Sloan progressed in a believable way, and there was a light romance with a boy who gave Franny origami animals in order to cheer her up. What a nice touch. The mother's back story with her parents as well as her various problems, seen through Franny's eyes, give us a good picture of an adult who struggles to raise a child even though she has the best intentions. Mimi is a great character, and reminded me of Bernadette in Weeks' 2004 So B. It. My favorite part was that Franny knew her situation and tried so hard to make everything work. She definitely Does Things, even though Mimi reminds her that she needs to be a kid. Excellent new book from the author of Tune It Out and Roll With It. 
Weaknesses: I found it a little hard to believe that Franny's mother would take the time, money, and effort to personally sew ill-considered garments for her. Attaching lace to a sweater would be expensive and time consuming. It seems more likely that her mother would just give him money to buy things at the thrift store, or that she would dress herself from the laundromat lost and found. Clearly a "me" thing.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and I think that this will appeal to young people who want to know about children who are self sufficient and upbeat, even when they don't want to have to fend for themselves and have no reason to have a positive attitude. 

Walters, Eric. Flight Plan (Rule of Three #5) 
September 12, 2023 by Orca Book Publishers
E ARC provided by the author and Edelweiss Plus

Jamie's parents are both pilots for Delta, so he's used to flying, but he still gets stuck with a chaperon, Julia. When Captain Daley and the young second in command, Doeun Kim, have him help with the preflight inspection, he feels better about the trip home from visiting his grandmother. Things go badly wrong at takeoff when the plane loses all power and is stopped just before crashing into a fence. There's no communication from the airport, and all of the cell phones are dark. The Captain feels responsible for everyone who was on board, and manages to get them all to safety in a nearby hotel. Flight that had been in the air were not as lucky, and the group can see the burning wreckage. While Jamie and the others are trying to figure out the best plan to get home, other people are looting and causing problems, which compels the group to start their journey. The manage to get together some food and water and bikes, as well as an old set of moveable steps for boarding the plane that has a rechargeable battery. There is a decent size group that includes a man in a wheelchair, a young mother and son, a doctor, and some airplane personnel. There's also an akita named Godzilla who becomes attached to Jamie and looks to be helpful. It's a journey of about 1,200 miles back to Jamie and Captain Daley's home, and they figure they can go about 25 miles per day. That's when things go well. Of course, there are all manner of obstacles. While some people they meet are helpful, there are other groups that charge people for getting over bridges, and some who roam the countryside on ATVs actively attacking people. The Captain and Tom are smart and well prepared, and even Jamie has a surprising amount of survival acuity. Survival in this new, post apocalyptic world often means killing others before they kill you, surviving on raw potatoes and game that Godzilla catches, an being constantly aware that evil doers could wait around the next turn. It's grueling, and a large part of the group decides to stay in one of the settlements they pass. The remaining members set out only to be attacked by lawless marauders that the manage to wipe out... but how long will it be before their compatriots come looking for Jamie's group. Even if the group can complete the journey, there's always the chance that their families didn't survive. 
Strengths: The Rule of Three is my go to dystopian series; I have four copies of the first book, and they are frequently all checked out. Since Flight Plan is set in the same world, at the same time as the first book, it can be read first. This reminds me a bit of the way Susan Beth Pfeffer set up her Life as We Knew It (2008) series, and it's fascinating to see another perspective. It's tough to write a riveting dystopian thriller and to show how horrible things can be while also infusing the book with hope, but Walters balances these two things well. Captain Daley and Tom are very good about keeping the group safe and only hurting other people if they or the others in the group are threatened, and there's a strong message that people should do the right thing, even when circumstances are horrible. There are lots of good survival details about travel, food, and incidentals like the importance of bleach for emergency disinfection of water. Traveling with airplane steps is rather inspired. The end of the book does leave room for another story set in this world, but Walters writes so many good books that it's not completely necessary to hear more, unless he is inspired to go back. This is the way the world will end, people, and Walters captures the travail perfectly. 
Weaknesses: There were a lot of characters, and I had trouble keeping them straight and connecting with them, especially when I had the (completely correct) feeling that many of them would die horrible deaths. 
What I really think: Mr. Walters sent me a pre-ARC digital copy, and about five of my students were able to read this before I got to it. They loved it, and felt so chuffed to be given a sneak peak! If you don't have this series in your middle school or high school library, make sure you order them in prebinds from a vendor like Follett-- the hardcovers are no longer available! They will get lots of use. 


  1. Maid For It sounds great. Franny sounds like one of those characters you are rooting throughout the whole book.

  2. I think I only read the first in Eric Walter's Rule of Three series. I agree that he is a brilliant author (and he's Canadian.)
    Maid for It sounds interesting, but dystopian in it's own way. I've added it to my list because I like Jamie Sumner's work and enjoyed Roll with It.

  3. I just put both of these on my TBR list. I love survivor stories, dystopian or not, so I am looking forward to the time I can get to Flight Plan. Maid for it also sounds really good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Anonymous7:15 AM EDT

    I have Maid for It ready to go. I just finished Sumner's Summer of June. So, I'm looking forward to this one.

  5. I don't think I've read any Jamie Sumner books yet but she's very popular at the store so maybe I should check her out.

  6. I need to read Rule of Three, obviously! Thank you for reminding me about it!

    Happy reading this week!