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JAWBREAKER by Christina Wyman Kirkus Star

JAWBREAKER

by Christina Wyman

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2023
ISBN: 9780374389697
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bullying, family strife, and a severe overbite set the stage for this gut-wrenching but overall optimistic tale set in Brooklyn.

Twelve-year-old Maximillia Plink’s life is already difficult enough without the painful headgear for her braces that her orthodontist makes her wear to correct a complicated overbite. But she’s also contending with the looming possibility of double jaw surgery, her parents’ increasingly frequent arguing, and her family’s financial struggles. The worst things, however, are the relentless abuse by bullies (chief among them her own younger sister), paired with what feels like a lack of support and cluelessness from the adults around her. When a journalism competition is announced at school, Max must choose whether to follow her dreams or shy away from submitting the required video essay for fear of being targeted for even more bullying. Inspired by her own life experiences, in her debut, Wyman explores typical junior high stresses such as navigating friendships while deftly exploring serious topics like toxic family dynamics, substance abuse, and the psychological toll of bullying. Interwoven with the weight of heavy topics is a message of hope, perseverance, and self-acceptance presented in a humorous and relatable way. It’s this accessible, balanced approach to painful and emotionally charged situations that makes this book so wildly successful. Max and her family are white; there is racial diversity among the supporting characters.

A hugely relatable must-read: witty, intensely emotional, and full of heart.

(author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)