What do you get when you combine a free-spirited young girl with a world full of rules? Hijinks—and lots of them.
In this debut middle-grade novel, Zoey Grace Song loves to talk, make her special chocolate pancakes, and take charge of any situation. She starts the sixth grade off by constantly getting into trouble—for being a distraction in class, bleaching her hair, and (accidentally) setting off a small explosion in school. She always seems to march to the beat of her own drum, often to her parents’ chagrin. Zoey’s mostly able to shrug off any naysaying in a refreshingly self-assured fashion, but sometimes the criticisms get to her, especially when she’s compared to her perfect twin sister, Zelena. (Thinking about a teacher, Zoey wonders whether “Mrs. Lewis would like me better if I was like Zelena.”) In her series opener, Lowery sometimes exaggerates Zelena’s maturity or other characters’ defining traits to the point of absurdity. But the 12-year-old author displays real empathy when the players have to contend with Zoey’s attention-grabbing ways. The protagonist is always excited to be in the spotlight: joining a local Scout troop, starting several businesses, and even hanging her own artwork at museums. When she can’t join the track team with her sister, Zoey’s upset, but Zelena provides a welcome dose of reality: “This is the first time people will focus on me as me, instead of Zoey’s twin.” Lowery writes with heart and ends Zoey’s sixth-grade year with a stirring speech about being yourself and learning from one another (“It doesn’t matter what others think of you, it only matters what you think of yourself”).
This outspoken narrator should monologue her way into readers’ hearts and teach them a few valuable lessons along the way.