Serena Says

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Nov. 2020. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062936974.
Gr 4-6–Davis brings to life a sensitive, imaginative heroine navigating the turmoils of middle school. After her friend JC’s kidney transplant, Serena, a young Black girl, observes a shift in their friendship. She worries their interests and social circles have changed, and turns to vlogging as a means of self-expression and creativity. Chapters alternate between transcriptions of her videos (which include DIY crafts and anecdotes) and her day-to-day life. When JC ends up back in the hospital, Serena is forced to confront their differences, while dealing with the upcoming WinterFest at school and her role on the school’s senate. She learns to communicate her feelings, and respect her friends’ boundaries. The book also aptly depicts mental health and the importance of privacy. A diverse and lively cast of characters helps propel the story forward. Serena’s family dynamics may feel particularly believable and relatable to youngsters: a nagging sister, tense family dinners, and frustrating conversations with parents. While Serena is in middle school, the prose reads at a younger level and would appeal to elementary-age children.
VERDICT The story line lacks focus at times, and the purpose of the vlogs is unclear. However, young readers will find in Serena an energetic friend working through the challenges of growing up.

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