Kumin’s latest effort is hindered by its format; this fictional autobiography is as unpolished and disorganized as a real preteen’s diary.
At her friend Trippy’s urging, 11-year-old Lizzie is excitedly writing her autobiography—beginning with her spinal-cord injury two years earlier and continuing through the minutiae of her life in Florida, which includes crushing on fellow wheelchair user Josh and discovering animal smugglers. With a penchant for Latin and condescension, precocious Lizzie resembles the eponymous narrator of Lisa Yee’s Millicent Min, Girl Genius (2003) but, sadly, lacks her coherence. The book is largely a collection of declarative sentences rather than vivid scenes, skipping from dessert choices to Scrabble to detective work and even interrupting an abduction to define “penlight.” Any adventure in the smuggling subplot fizzles under her (stereotyped) Hispanic friend’s expository dialogue or Lizzie’s obvious statements. (“But what he did next was really scary,” Lizzie writes of the smuggler.) After yet another tangent, Lizzie writes, “This is the kind of thing that happens to me all the time where words are concerned, when I should be paying attention to the question.” Readers looking for a tighter plot may wish that she had, indeed, paid attention.
Readers would do better with Millicent Min or The One and Only Ivan (2012). (Fiction. 8-11)