A middle schooler struggles with executive function disorder in this thoughtful middle-grade novel.
Hester loves filmmaking more than anything else. Not only is it her passion—she carries her video camera everywhere—but it also makes the most sense to her. Her executive function disorder makes traditional schoolwork difficult despite dedicated strategies at school and home. Luckily, her best friends, white Max and Indian-American Nev, have always been supportive and understanding. Hess loves collaborating with them on filmmaking projects, and she can’t wait to show their spy film at the middle school talent show. However, she struggles to balance all of her commitments—in addition to difficult schoolwork and the trio’s movie, she’s working on an extra-credit film project. In serious danger of failing eighth grade and thus unable to participate in the talent show, Hess feels her world spinning further out of control. Ashamed and devastated, she finds solace and support in the kindness of a few teachers, her supportive parents, and a graphic novel–loving ELL student who wears a hijab and has emigrated from the Middle East. The book’s hopeful finale is tidy and clichéd but undeniably satisfying. Through Hester’s thoughtful first-person narration, structured with “fast forward,” “pause,” and “resume play” asides, Dionne creates a flawed, lovable, sympathetic character who, thanks to her support network, is ultimately able to become “the director of [her] own story.”
Readers will root for and relate to Hester. (Fiction. 9-14)