Now that shy Abby is attending sixth grade at a boarding school, she’s decided to reinvent herself as plucky, outgoing “Abbi,” but that may not play well with her eighth-grade sister, Sydney.
Sydney is the head of a small student committee that (strangely) makes almost all the decisions that affect the students, from authorizing room repairs to funding for after-school clubs. She rules the committee with an iron fist, largely through blackmailing the other members into abject submission. Her power is, she believes, the perfect compensation for being just as socially inadequate as Abby had been. But after Sydney de-funds the school play that her younger sister has just won a role in (to protect her from inevitable failure, Sydney rationalizes), Abbi takes matters into her own hands and successfully campaigns to be a committee member. The tale is told in halves by two archetypal voices: enthusiastic, likable Abbi’s for the first 88 pages, then the rest from Sydney’s rather misanthropic point of view. This structure provides none of the conflict that the title implies. Neither the quite-good sister nor the quite-bad one ever achieves full believability. Most of the entertainment comes from execution of the good-defeating-evil trope and the sheer pleasure of Abbi’s delightful reboot of herself. The ultimate too-simple resolution of Sydney’s significant issues also feels good but seems highly improbable.
Although superficial in its characterizations, the story is still pleasantly entertaining and fast-paced. (Fiction. 10-12)