Here are some shorter musings of recent reads.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams Garcia
Clayton is an excellent main character. He is grieving the death of his grandfather and trying to navigate all those emotions while his mom is dealing with it in exactly the opposite way he needs. The inter-generational struggles here and how we carry the baggage of disappointing relationships into new ones is explored in a way that the target audience can take in. I think this could have been a truly extraordinary book, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it was too short. The last quarter of the book is packed with too much action and emotion with a rushed resolution that fives the reader no time to process it.
Crushing It by Joanne Levy
This is a fun, lighthearted romantic MG read. Yes. Romantic. MG readers often want those too and this is perfect for the age range. It is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, which the audience isn't going to know or care about, but I think it makes sense to retell this story in the context of middle school. Any one older should know better. My one big complaint with the book was how flat a character Olivia is. She is built on stereotypes and never goes much deeper than that. I really loved the dynamic between Kat and Tyler though.
The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
I'm very much over Sherlock Holmes adaptations as a whole personally, but at least this one is going to an audience that hasn't been saturated with them. And it's pretty adorable. This is perfect for readers who are still fairly new to MG books. It's short, fast paced, and, while it uses some large vocabulary, is incredibly accessible to many levels of readers. There is always a need for a new, fun mystery series and this has the added bonus of having a diverse cast of characters.
Forever or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter
Flora and her brother Julian spent years in the foster care system and were kids who fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy. They have been with their forever mom for two years now, but when she announces she is having a baby Flora and Julian begin to wonder if there will still be a place for them. They also begin to question where they came from. Their mom takes them on a journey to discover their past and build their family. The book is told in Flora's first person voice and it is really well done. Flora has a hard time expressing herself but is super smart. Her internal monologue reads as incredibly real. All the characters here are wonderful and Carter handles the challenges of blending families and kids with trauma both frankly and delicately. This is a good book for kids who enjoy introspective reads about family and bonding.