In her debut novel, Turley presents introspective fifth-grader Hannah, who discovers a note on her classroom floor that says, “Nobody likes Hannah.”
No one admits to writing it, but it could have been Kimmy, whose mother died the year before and who’s obviously unhappy and acts out. She resents Hannah, who always beats her in spelling bees. But there’s more unhappiness in Hannah’s life. Her angry father frequently berates and fights with her mother. Once he tried to hit her. Meanwhile, one of Hannah’s two best friends, Courtney, has turned away from their friendship and become something of a bully. Only her other friend, Ryan, remains steadfast. Trying to cope with her emotional issues, Hannah gets some support from objects that suddenly, surreally, develop voices: Her favorite stuffed animal, a penny, even a stop sign on the way to school (and others) all offer advice, sometimes taking over the narrative and speaking directly to readers. Whether this is her imagination, emerging mental illness, or an odd literary device remains unclear. A school counselor, Ms. Meghan, whose notes are included, meets with Hannah, but the meetings feel more invasive than helpful. The book subscribes to the white default; brown-skinned Ryan stands out notably as a child of color.
Although this unusual tale offers some insight into bullying and family problems, the useful message is somewhat obscured by the perplexing voices. (Fiction. 9-12)