At Austen Middle School, seventh grade means the Austen Business Challenge. Latina Clara’s project? Matching up couples for the Hot Chocolate Social.
Clara Martinez does not have time for a boyfriend. She was an outcast at her previous school and cannot believe she is sitting at the “in” table at Austen. When her new friend Emily notices her strong matchmaking skills at the mall, Clara’s ABC project begins to blossom. Happy to be different from the cookie bakers and video game makers, Clara pours herself into the matching business. The ABC is an interesting backdrop against which the social hierarchy of middle school is illustrated. With a cast of familiar middle school characters, divorced parents, and slipping grades—not to mention the plot of Jane Austen’s Emma—Clara’s tale is not unique, but through Clara’s Spanish-sprinkled narration, Meyerhoff gives credibility to these preteens. Readers will rush into the next chapter, determined to uncover if Clara will succeed in pairing up classmates, and they will recognize her own true suitor. Though hers is a squeaky-clean version of romantic relationships in middle school, Meyerhoff nevertheless provides realistic lessons in starting a business. Classmates cheat and try to sabotage each other's projects. Staffing and marketing become real issues. Thankfully, the all-knowing neighbor who watches from the sidelines provides the moral compass to Clara’s quixotic plans.
A fast read for budding romance fans, from the Wish series. (Fiction. 8-12)