Aspiring scientist Hope Roberts is starting her first day at JFK Middle School, where her advanced classes will separate her from her best friend, Sam Bowers, for the first time.
Though the friends make a pact to keep close, different classes and extracurricular interests forge a distance. After surviving the first week of middle school, Hope joins the science club, which is given the immediate task of preparing for the year’s first science competition. Though Hope and her new friend, Camila Rivera, conceive the robotics coding idea for the competition project, the boys mostly dominate the actualization of the project. The girls express their frustration to each other, but they continue on as team players. Hope gets so caught up in trying to prove the boys wrong that her anxiety leads to the destruction of the entire project. Hope’s supportive parents offer her the insight she needs to face her mistakes and work through them. A diverse cast is depicted via illustrations and naming convention. Biracial (black/white) Hope is illustrated with brown skin and “big hair” (referred to multiple times, once in tandem with her dog). Sam has pale skin, and Camilla declares Guatemalan heritage. Hope fumbles by stereotyping Camilla as an assumed Spanish speaker; the authors arguably make the same gaffe by casting Señora Lopez, the Spanish teacher, with swaying hoop earrings.
Despite a bit of bumpiness, Hope is a likable and inspiring kid who never gives up. (Fiction. 8-12)