Winning the lottery does not turn out as sixth-grader Hailee Richardson had imagined.
Yes, she does get the new bicycle and cellphone that were high on her list of needs, but she also gets sent to a different school, prestigious Magnolia Academy. New and nervous, Hailee becomes consumed with Facebook and is targeted by an older risk-taking classmate who threatens to get this previously good kid, who doesn’t even swear, into trouble. Soon she’s alienated a new friend and said something terrible to an old one. Dramatic and imaginative, Hailee is both quick-witted and quick to justify herself. In her first-person, present-tense narration, she promises to tell readers the truth, and she does, in her lights. But readers will see through this unreliable narrator, recognizing her jealous moments and her social insecurity. They may even be relieved by her father’s “intervention,” which curbs her cellphone addiction. Hailee’s love for the hard-to-control bougainvillea vines and the ever-changing swamp maple outside her Florida window reflect her own issues. Her parents’ sensible approach to their newly acquired wealth contrasts nicely with their daughter’s exaggerated dreams. Haworth effectively captures the self-consciousness, self-absorption and limited experience of a preteen, and the seductive charms of Facebook friendships for that age.
Realistic, modern and still familiar, this is a middle school story both children and their parents should read. (Fiction. 9-12)