Wise-cracking eighth-grader Maureen is the self-described “anti-cool” heroine of this droll tale of a talent-show showdown.
When Maureen impetuously foils the nefarious lunchtime plot of the ThreePees, the reigning triumvirate of the “Pretty, Popular, and Perfect” crowd, a unique alliance comes together. Suddenly Maureen becomes an unwilling co-conspirator with fellow social misfits Allergy Alice and Beanpole Barbara to wrest talent-show victory from the ThreePees. With a keen eye, Sitomer portrays the callous social hierarchy of middle school. Although Maureen wields her often self-deprecating humor as a shield, Alice and Barbara, along with readers, see the girl behind the bravado. In their bid to take a stand, a fragile friendship forms among the trio. As tensions increase, the girls’ histories are revealed: Maureen struggles with her feelings over her father’s long-ago abandonment, and Alice harbors a devastating secret. Despite her somewhat abrasive humor, Maureen remains a likable character. Unfortunately, the ThreePees remain flatly one dimensional, never breaking out of their stereotypical roles.
Even though the story’s resolution is slightly contrived, readers will be cheering for these girls as they bravely go forth, proudly proclaiming their nerdiness. (Fiction. 11-13)