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KEEPING PACE by Laurie Morrison


by Laurie Morrison

Pub Date: April 9th, 2024
ISBN: 9781419768750
Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t tell that to Grace Eller, whose one-track mind is focused squarely on academic achievement. When she’s bested for both the creative writing and “Eighth-Grade Top Scholar” awards by friend-turned-rival Jonah Perkins, her sense of self is battered. What’s an overachiever who fails to achieve? With help from older sister Celia and cousin Avery, Grace comes up with a summer goals list. She’s poised for a journey of self-exploration: Babysitting Teddy (her dad’s girlfriend’s 4-year-old son), taking an ungraded creative writing class, learning to embrace her naturally curly hair, and training for a half-marathon are all activities that uproot Grace from her comfort zone. She discovers that opening herself up to new experiences allows her to let other people in and empowers her to redefine success on her own terms. This well-paced novel is a balm for readers who may be struggling with senses of self that are narrowly defined by grades or athletic performance. The supportive sibling and cousin dynamics enrich the narrative by finding the complementary middle ground in a juxtaposition of opposites. The authentically awkward navigation of a blossoming romance fuels Grace’s journey of emotional development, while an amicable post-divorce parental relationship tenderly reveals the uncomfortable truth that parents are people, too. Most characters are cued white; there’s racial diversity among the background characters.

An insightful read that highlights the struggles and strides young people make toward self-awareness.

(Fiction. 10-14)