Rising seventh-grader Sara Johnston-Fisher’s summer journal chronicles a family cross-country trip and her own personal journey from acutely self-conscious preteen to someone “new and improved.”
Sara and her friends have grand plans to reinvent themselves in the summer before middle school, but Sara’s are derailed when her mother Mimi wins a fellowship to take and write about a family train trip. Sara’s mortified by her family—two moms, college-age sister Laurel, who has a tongue stud, Root, Laurel’s laid-back California “partner,” and her all-caps–loud little sister—and she’s horrified by their New Train Friends: diminutive Travis, his writer dad, and his two nonagenarian “aunties.” The author comments on a variety of social issues through Laurel and Root’s social consciousness and warns readers of the lack of privacy on the internet through Travis’ computer savvy. Sara includes her own impressions of scenic and historical highlights of the trip as well as notes, postcards, and excerpts from other’s writings. But this story is never preachy; it ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to incredibly moving, and the voices are true. Fans of Levy’s Fletcher Family novels will be happy to hear more about Frog’s friend Ladybug, Sara’s little sister. Ladybug is Asian-American, and Travis is depicted as black on the cover; Sara and the others appear to be white.
Ignore the title: this is a good story already. (Fiction. 9-13)