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2020
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Booklist Reviews

When 11-year-old Jenae arrives at John Wayne Junior High for her first day at the school, it's surrounded by protesters demanding a name change to honor civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez. While racial issues concern Jenae, who is Black, that morning she's focused on dealing with start-of-school jitters and with Aubrey, a boy who wants to befriend her. At home, she has different troubles. Irrationally blaming herself for her grandfather's stroke and the injury that has put her brother's college basketball career on hold, she feels responsible for making things better, but her methods sometimes backfire. And though she suffers from a paralyzing fear of public speaking, when a crucial moment arrives, she pulls herself together and speaks from the heart. The author of A Good Kind of Trouble (2019), Rame´e creates a number of convincing characters with depth and individuality. Jenae's distinctive first-person narrative is engaging as the story gradually builds momentum and she reveals her thoughts more fully. This satisfying novel revolves around civic engagement, family relationships, and an unexpected but ultimately welcome friendship. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ultra-introvert Jenae, 11, lives in Los Angeles with her mother, her older brother (home from college with a basketball injury), and her grandfather. On her first day at John Wayne Junior High, Jenae learns of a growing conflict over her school's name, her English teacher details a semester of public speaking, and obnoxious new kid Aubrey Banks reveals that both kids are fans of a popular YouTuber. Though Jenae doesn't often make friends, believing that her feelings affect others' actions (she blames herself for her brother's accident and her father's leaving), she reluctantly lets Aubrey in. When the first speech looms, however, Jenae is willing to lose the friendship and lie to her family to avoid it. Though the girl's aversion to public speaking ends rather abruptly, her insecurities and feelings of invisibility are age appropriate and well developed. Numerous subplots—the school name-change debate, Jenae's grandfather's deteriorating health, and her brother's worrisome sulking—help lead Ramée's (A Good Kind of Trouble) story to a laudable culmination. Indigo's digital character sketches appear throughout. Ages 8–12. Author's agent: Brenda Bowen, the Book Group. (July)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 3–7—Jenae likes to be invisible. She's starting junior high school without any friends, and she's just fine with that. Her plans start to fall through, however, when she meets Aubrey, a new boy from Chicago with flaming orange hair and a larger-than-life personality. Bonding over their favorite YouTube star, the two form a friendship. As part of an assignment for English class, Aubrey and Jenae are tasked with debating the school's proposed name change from John Wayne Junior High to Sylvia Mendez Junior High. Jenae would rather do anything than stand up in front of the class and speak, even though this cause means a lot to her. She also has her family to worry about: Her grandfather Gee suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak, her father doesn't seem to have the time for her, Mama wants her to be bold and outgoing, and her brother Malcolm is home from playing college basketball due to a sports injury. Ramée (A Good Kind of Trouble) offers a strong representation of social anxiety in Jenae, and creates a dynamic and realistic cast of characters. The debate over the school's name change will prompt readers to reflect on timely social justice topics. VERDICT This is a compelling story about friendship, fighting for what you believe in, and finding your voice. A first purchase for middle grade collections.—Katharine Gatcomb, Portsmouth P.L., NH

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Annotations

A friendless girl who has developed a knack for keeping her head down at school resists a red-headed newcomer who wants to make friends, before the two are paired for a class assignment that she hopes will secure her position on the debate team. 75,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

From the author of A Good Kind of Trouble, a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book, comes another unforgettable story about finding your voice&;and finding your people. Perfect for fans of Sharon Draper, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds.

Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn&;t have any friends&;and she&;s just fine with that. She&;s so good at being invisible in school, it&;s almost like she has a superpower, like her idol, Astrid Dane. At home, Jenae has plenty of company, like her no-nonsense mama; her older brother, Malcolm, who is home from college after a basketball injury; and her beloved grandpa, Gee.

Then a new student shows up at school&;a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won&;t quit. Jenae can&;t figure out why he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around.

But when the two are paired up for a class debate about the proposed name change for their school, Jenae knows this new friendship has an expiration date. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team.

There&;s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience&;including risking the first real friendship she&;s ever had.

- (HARPERCOLL)

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