Yeh (The Truth about Twinkie Pie, 2015) explores mazes, friendship, and individuality.
Taiwanese-American budding poet Beatrix Lee, taking after her free-spirited artist parents, has always danced to the beat of her own playlist. But she enters seventh grade resolved to be as invisible as the ink she writes with. Lately, her best friend, S, has grown painfully and realistically distant, finding Bea’s exuberance embarrassing. However, an invisible friend has begun answering the soul-searching poems Bea tucks into a wall. Is it the empathetic librarian who always recommends the right book? Or Briggs, the offbeat white student who edits the school newspaper and who likes her poetry? Or Will, the analytical white boy who’s fascinated with labyrinths (and whom readers may identify as autistic)? Part friend and part plot device, Will resembles one of Bea’s haiku, delivering sharp insights within the rigid structures of his routines. When Bea decides to help Will break into a famous local labyrinth via convenient plot loopholes, their plan takes an unexpected turn, and Bea must decide who her real friends are. When Bea emerges from the intricately drawn maze of her conflicting feelings, she makes a mature decision with a compassionate twist. The author includes a list of the songs in Bea’s soundtrack, but her allusions to other books go unidentified, enjoyable Extra Credit Curveballs (as Bea’s teacher would call them).
Gets to the heart of middle school awkwardness like a sympathetic haiku. (Fiction. 9-13)