Can two seemingly opposite girls become friends?
Jasmine and her recently widowed mom move to Connecticut for a fresh start. As an eighth-grader living in a trailer park in an affluent community, feisty, hurting Jasmine encounters the painful pecking order of middle school. She meets wealthy, spacey, still-dressing-like-a-little-girl Maddie, who on the surface appears to be as different as possible from sarcastic, belligerent, chip-on-her-shoulder Jasmine. Jasmine has lost her gram, dad, home and dog. She angrily uses her fists, easily lies and readily resorts to stealing. Maddie, a middle child who fears she compares unfavorably to her older sister, doesn’t make the soccer team and loses her best friend, who does. Maddie also resorts to lies and theft. This friendship story is marred by contrivances. The ease and frequency of the girls’ lying and stealing seem improbable, and in the span of three weeks at the beginning of school, each realizes she needs a friend. Poems interspersed throughout (both famous poems and ones penned by the students) and the message that poetry is cool are engaging touches, although the extemporaneous student poems seem far too polished to be credible.
While no new ground is covered in Pakkala’s novel, the spot-on cover will entice readers who will identify with the pain of middle school, enjoy the well-developed secondary characters and applaud the girls’ growth. (Fiction. 10-14)