After traveling the world and being home-schooled with her best friend, Annabelle Daphne Louis is a military brat who is not happy about leaving Germany to live in New Jersey and attend middle school—while her mom is deployed in Afghanistan.
To help her adjust, Annabelle is forced to see a therapist, who suggests that she use her film talents to create a vlog, a space where she can document her feelings about her new experiences. Donning an elaborate outfit, an English accent, and a wig, Annabelle creates an online persona, “Daphne,” who humorously shares stories about her daily challenges. After Annabelle accidentally leaves her YouTube account set to public, her vlog goes viral—and Annabelle definitely doesn’t want anyone to know she is really Daphne. Annabelle walks the line between choosing to hang out with the popular clique or her true friends. Throughout the story, though the vlog is supposed to give her agency over how she copes, her therapist and mother urge her to seek acceptance, creating something of a mixed message. Text-message transcripts and Annabelle’s imaginary scripts enliven her narration. Annabelle is black (and her father is part Puerto Rican), and both her friends and foes at middle school are notably diverse.
Though the plot has a soap-opera feel, its predictability in plain sight, it is refreshing to see diverse characters tackling the normal highs and lows of middle school life. (Fiction. 9-12)