BOOKS
Focused
304p. Scholastic. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338185973.
COPY ISBN
Gr 5–8—Seventh grader Clea doesn't know why she can't seem to get her homework done on time or why she gets distracted and fails tests. Saying things she doesn't mean is her normal, even when she wishes it wasn't. She blurts out answers at chess club, ruining a live-action game, and then exposes her best friend's family problems to everyone at school. When her parents take her to be tested for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she is angry and anxious but also hopeful. She doesn't want to have ADHD, but she does want to feel like she has control over her actions. Clea's signs of ADHD are realistic: the little things that distract her, impulse control issues, and poor management skills. Readers with and without ADHD will relate to Clea's struggles in her school and social life as she strives to achieve the balance she needs to be successful. At times, the protagonist appears more mature and self-aware than her age. She puts her doctor's and counselor's support into place with very little parental help and quickly learns how to advocate for herself. Her explanation of her diagnosis and enumeration of its effects on her and the supports she needs sometimes takes away from the immediacy of the story and veers toward the didactic. However, the portrayal of what it can be like to live with ADHD is spot-on. Also, the message of supposed weaknesses being hidden strengths is a perennially important one.
VERDICT A good addition to realistic fiction collections.

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