A seventh grader copes with sexual harassment organized and perpetrated by several boys in her class.
Mila’s conversational first-person narration makes her experiences immediate and her emotions clear. Confused, frustrated, angry, and scared, Mila feels even worse because she can’t count on her usual circle of friends. Zara seems weirdly envious of the boys’ attention. Quiet Omi hates confrontation. And Max is busy with new student (and his new crush) Jared. He’s also disappointed that Mila won’t take his advice to report the harassment. Meanwhile, Mila’s divorced mom just lost her job, and looking after her younger sister takes more time and energy than Mila has sometimes. Adding in band practice, karate classes, and making some new friends creates a story that feels almost as overstuffed as the typical middle schooler’s life. Dee’s smooth writing style and short chapters, however, keep the action moving briskly. The topic—and the boys’ actions—is potentially upsetting but never described in a graphic or gratuitous way. Mila’s reluctance to involve her mother or other adults feels believable, if unfortunate, and her internal dialogues about what is happening and why ring true. The eventual, hard-won resolution does require adult intervention, and it’s satisfying to see the adults own up to their own shortcomings. Mila and Max present white; Omi is Latinx (from the Dominican Republic), and Zara presents black.
This timely exploration of a depressingly common experience should begin some useful conversations. (Fiction. 10-14)