Weston sums up her new diary-style middle-grade novel when lively 10-year-old Ava writes that she hopes someday to write a book about “a good kid who does a bad thing and sometimes feels invisible, but who helps her sister find her voice and ends up finding her own.”
Ava, a budding writer and class-A speller, is outgoing and chatty. Her sister, Pip, who turns 13 during the story, is so shy she’s virtually silent. When Pip’s birthday plans for a girls sleepover are derailed by new classmate Bea’s boy-girl party, Ava pens a story maligning her as an entry in a library writing contest. Ava’s “word nerd” family revels in language, particularly palindromes and homonyms. In fact, they pepper the narrative, so much so that their use at times undercuts the material’s narrative flow. Besides delighting, Ava learns that words can influence feelings and reputation. After Bea recognizes herself in the story, Ava realizes her mistake and sincerely apologizes. In a refreshing plot twist, instead of staying mad, Bea teams up with Ava to aid Pip in coming out of her shell. Ava is a winning protagonist, a little too articulate for her age perhaps, but she and Pip grow psychologically in realistic and convincing ways.
“Helping others helps you too” is Weston’s essential message, and her story ably illustrates the point. (Fiction. 8-12)