It’s just a tiny bit hard to feel sorry for Kenzie.
Ever since her mother died three years before, she’s been home-schooled, constantly traveling first-class with her busy dad. Now she gets to spend six weeks in one place, enrolled in a Las Vegas middle school. She throws herself into the experience, easily making friends, joining a club, running for student council vice president, and even ousting class diva Shelby for the lead role in the musical. She just doesn’t bother to tell anyone, even Ashia and Bren, who are especially kind, that she’s only there temporarily. After word finally gets out, many are annoyed at her failure to come clean, although Bren, an attractively developed, rather quirky boy, sticks solidly by her. Even though Kenzie struggles a bit after her secret is revealed, a neat fix effectively derails that conflict. Her father announces that they can remain permanently if she wishes, a decision she mulls over—while visiting Walt Disney World. Rather than feeling believable as plucky and a bit precocious, Kenzie seems to ride a magic carpet that elevates her above the true strife of middle school. With none of the protagonists physically described or much in the way of other ethnic or racial markers in Kenzie’s present-tense, first-person monologue, this Las Vegas school could just as well be anywhere.
Kenzie describes a fantasy middle school life the way most girls wish it could be—amusing and fun but not quite plausible. (Fiction. 9-12)