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In this debut novel, an 11-year-old girl hopes to win a spot as guest host on a kids’ talk show, but she faces obstacles from her parents and best friend.

When Natalie Greyson hears that her favorite television show, Kidz Konnection, is holding auditions for a guest host (who must be between the ages of 10 and 12), she’s over the moon. She’s seen every episode and knows everything about its two young hosts, Allie and Chloe. It would be a perfect opportunity for her, except that her parents won’t let her try out. Natalie’s previous enthusiasms have been short-lived, they say, and besides, the audition is the same day as her twin 4-year-old siblings’ photo shoot for a magazine cover, and they want the whole family to be there. Natalie feels betrayed when one of her besties, Kailyn—who always wins the school talent show—wants to audition, even though she doesn’t even watch Kidz Konnection. Natalie is tempted to forge her parents’ signatures on the permission slip and show Kailyn up, but she’ll have to confront whether it’s worth the resulting hurt feelings and lost trust. Sparks offers a fast-paced read, with lots of tween drama about issues such as self-esteem and how to handle obnoxious boys. Many readers will find the humorous Natalie relatable, with her best-friends girls’ club, her insecurities (about burping and blushing), and her love of glitter and feather pens; her blog entries, each ending “That’s me In A Nat Shell,” are contemporary and lively. Sparks treats her protagonist’s relatively minor infractions with a heavy hand, though: “Trust is earned not given,” says Natalie’s father after a mere slip-up by a good girl who’s never lied to her parents, gotten bad grades or been in any real trouble before. Her parents make a good point when they remind Natalie of all the fun activities they attended with her in the past, but to say that the very young twins “have been there for you a lot” is a reach. (After all, they didn’t drive her to practice.) Still, all is forgiven in the end, and Natalie does learn some important lessons.

An often bright and fun middle-grade novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1941036105
Page count: 150pp
Publisher: Firedrake Books, LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
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