Something To Say

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jul. 2020. 384p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062836717.
Gr 3-7–Jenae likes to be invisible. She’s starting junior high school without any friends, and she’s just fine with that. Her plans start to fall through, however, when she meets Aubrey, a new boy from Chicago with flaming orange hair and a larger-than-life personality. Bonding over their favorite YouTube star, the two form a friendship. As part of an assignment for English class, Aubrey and Jenae are tasked with debating the school’s proposed name change from John Wayne Junior High to Sylvia Mendez Junior High. Jenae would rather do anything than stand up in front of the class and speak, even though this cause means a lot to her. She also has her family to worry about: Her grandfather Gee suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak, her father doesn’t seem to have the time for her, Mama wants her to be bold and outgoing, and her brother Malcolm is home from playing college basketball due to a sports injury. Ramée (A Good Kind of Trouble) offers a strong representation of social anxiety in Jenae, and creates a dynamic and realistic cast of characters. The debate over the school’s name change will prompt readers to reflect on timely social justice topics.
VERDICT This is a compelling story about friendship, fighting for what you believe in, and finding your voice. A first purchase for middle grade collections.

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