Fly Back, Agnes

Carolrhoda. Mar. 2020. 296p. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781541578203.
Gr 4 Up–Fifth grade graduate Agnes struggles with her changing body, her fractured family, even an old-fashioned name she doesn’t feel fits her. When her steamroller of a mother announces a harebrained summer trip with her new boyfriend, Agnes crafts a lie so she can stay with her college professor father in another town. One lie quickly leads to others. In her new reality she is Chloe, a 14-year-old actress with a perfect family. With her father working on his PhD, Agnes has the freedom to roam the charming rural town. She meets a cadre of friendly people, including Stella and the enigmatic Fin, also visiting and with a mysterious background. Agnes becomes a friend and confidante to the teenagers, each of whom have family issues. Everyone in town seems to have a secret and they all reveal themselves to Agnes, not realizing she is keeping so many of her own. Atkinson captures Agnes’s innocence and reluctance to embrace change while desiring to be a different person in a different situation. Though her mother’s character is drawn larger than life, interesting and unique supporting characters help bring the town down to earth.
VERDICT Issues of peer acceptance, popularity, and the repercussions of divorce are delicately explored in this sweet and tender tale. Will resonate with middle grade and early high school students, especially those at a crossroads in their lives.

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