FICTION

Chirp

Bloomsbury. Feb. 2020. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781547602810.
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Gr 4-6–Messner crafts a timely “#MeToo” novel wrapped in intriguing parallel mysteries. What turned talented gymnast Mia away from the sport she loved after a fall and surgery? There’s a story she hasn’t told anyone. And who is sabotaging her Gram’s fledgeling cricket farm? In the summer after seventh grade, Mia finds the courage—and voice—to confront both. Helping Mia reclaim her strength are the skills she develops while attending two summer camps and a number of memorable female supporting characters. New friend Clover’s innate bravery and self-confidence help Mia remember she is strong, too. Gram almost steals the spotlight as the novel’s most inspiring character through her rich backstory and, like Mia, is determined to recover from a physical setback. Most male figures—both human and insect—are depicted as characters who are less mature and sensitive than their female counterparts. A male camper eventually apologizes to Mia’s friend Anna for making her feel uncomfortable with his advances. At Mia’s request, her mother tells her father about Mia’s past abuse to spare the teen re-telling her painful story to him; “Dad wasn’t great about talking about things like that.” The novel’s important themes successfully inspire and empower its audience. Mia’s shyness, aversion to gymnastics, and discomfort with unfamiliar boys and men clearly establishes the thematic subtext of the novel for young readers, even when the action is focused on the sabotage afoot.
VERDICT A novel that succeeds most as a carefully plotted, engaging mystery and middle grade–appropriate introduction to a serious and pervasive issue.

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