Eager to escape her troubled history, 12-year-old Charlie is ready to start over.
Charlie’s decision to lace the school lunch with laxatives in an attempt to frame another student resulted in her expulsion from school and mandatory counseling. Relocation to another school district and a new school year offer Charlie an opportunity to begin again. But Charlie’s recent commitment to reform is challenged when her doctor assigns her the job of seeking out the student most in need of a friend at her new school. Soon, Charlie is caught between her determination to help Marta, a student cruelly picked on by her classmates, and her longing to be accepted. A fierce gymnastics rivalry and Marta’s resistance to Charlie’s overtures of friendship further complicate Charlie’s endeavors. However, Charlie’s attitude changes from exasperation to concern when she uncovers Marta’s tragic secret. Lennon’s tale addresses manifold topics, including the pressures and social issues of middle school, friendship quandaries and bullying. Charlie’s eclectic mix of interests—she’s a computer prodigy with a talent for hacking and an aspiring fashion trendsetter who harbors a keen interest in Harry Houdini—contribute to her distinctive narrative voice. Lennon skillfully delves beyond Charlie’s sass and troubled façade to reveal her insecurities and vulnerability.
Readers will admire the unabashedly quirky Charlie as she embarks upon her journey of self-understanding and transformation with verve. (Fiction. 12 & up)