FOCUSED by Alyson Gerber
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 8 - 12
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Gerber, who tackled scoliosis with Braced (2017), turns her lens on a young woman with ADHD.

Massachusetts seventh-grader Clea loves magic and chess, hates math, and wants to be a better friend, sister, and student. No matter how hard she tries, she struggles to finish homework and tests on time, putting her spot on the chess team in jeopardy. Meanwhile friendships hit a snag when she impulsively blurts out sensitive information her best friend and chess teammate, Red, would rather keep secret. When teachers and the school counselor suggest her struggles may be related to ADHD, Clea is resistant to diagnosis and treatment, considering it a black mark and further evidence that she is somehow broken. Through it all a friendship blooms with Sanam, another chess teammate, who encourages Clea with her own story of learning differences and her persistent optimism. Though not a biographical story, Gerber’s tender first-person narrative perfectly resonates with the ADHD experience, which she knows firsthand. The supportive world Clea inhabits both at home and at school is an ideal place free of stigma; would that all students with learning differences experience such in real life. Gerber’s text and author’s note feature excellent information and resources for ADHD brains and the hearts who love them. Clea and Red present as white while Sanam’s name suggests she’s Middle Eastern or South Asian.

An accurate and compassionate picture of growing up with ADHD is the icing on the cake of this well-told novel. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 26th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-338-18597-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2019


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