Augusta is starting middle school—and dealing with her parents’ recent divorce as well.
Gus tells the story as a letter for her younger sister, Louisa, to read later. This useful narrative tool also enables her to gradually discover and reveal that Lou is having lots of trouble coping with the parental breakup too even though Gus is initially too wrapped up in herself to notice. Gus encounters lots of new people in middle school, as well as some whom she previously knew but who have remade themselves in not-always-pleasant ways. Among these are her former BFF, Layla, who’s attending a different school, and the previously annoyingly clingy Marcy, who has now attached herself to a couple of unkind and remarkably condescending other girls. From the Binaca breath spray–addicted Mr. Smeed to Nick, whom Gus has known for years but who is now becoming interesting in a novel, unexpected way, characters are believably well drawn, as are the humiliations and the ultimate redemption that Gus discovers. Some of the episodes, like Gus’ Binaca-based gambling pool, are laugh-out-loud funny. While Mahoney’s road map to middle school won’t become required reading, it’s a fine and highly recommended travelogue for those just entering that uncharted territory. Gus presents white on the cover; though she’s surrounded by a multiracial cast there, descriptors within are few.
Amusing, enlightening, and ideal for a final read just before middle school. (Fiction. 9-12)