May I just say that Nancy Cavanaugh is a genius when it comes to making realistic middle school characters? Because she is...she's a genius. Her novel is written, not as a diary or journal (although readers who enjoy Dork Diaries or Dear Dumb Diary will enjoy it), but as a series of lists. As Abigail explains, - Lists are much cooler than, "Dear Diary, Blah, blah, blah..." - The headings for the lists are as much a part of the story as the lists themselves. We see things like, "Three reasons I hate being in a different homeroom than Allicam," "Three reasons I'm going to have to get a new life," and "Five things I thought after reading the note."
In the story, Abigail and her two best friends are beginning 6th grade and their life's ambition is to make the pom-pom squad. Sadly, Alli and Cami (a.k.a. Allicam), are in homeroom together and Abigail is in a different homeroom without them. They can't even practice their pom-pom routines together at lunch because their rooms have different lunch periods. Other reasons Abigail is unhappy with middle school so far (I'm starting to write lists like she does): her homeroom teacher is the strictest teacher in the school, her mother was a star student and the teacher expects the same thing from Abigail, and the teacher assigns them partners to write letters to and Abigail is stuck with Gabby Marco (a.k.a. the biggest outcast in the school). Could things get any worse?
Actually, things do get worse. Things involving a mud puddle on the way to the bus, overhearing Allicam talking about her, mean pranks by other girls, and some teasing by a boy in her class. At one point her mother asks if she has made some new friends and Abigail thinks to herself, "New friends, Mom? Really, do you remember at all what middle school was like?"
I remember middle school. For me it was 8th grade year that was so hard. My best friend was in another homeroom and we didn't have any classes or lunch together. Then, in the middle of the year, we moved and I had to change schools. Does anyone else recall how awful it is to be the new kid? Especially if you move in after everyone has already formed their groups of friends for the year? It was awful - so I totally sympathize with Abigail about being depressed over her situation.
Luckily, in books and IRL (in real life), Abigail's mother is right and you can always make new friends. Along the way Abigail learns what being a real friend is all about and finds out that pom-poms are not the center of the universe.
This is a great book for anyone who is feeling discouraged about their homeroom assignment, their chances at team tryouts, or school in general. I really appreciated all the great books that were mentioned throughout the story - everything from Green Eggs and Ham to Hatchet.
I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher so that I could give my honest review. The book is now in our library.
There is an awesome author interview available.