Alma Presses Play

Random/Make Me a World. Sept. 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593121146.
Gr 6-9–It’s 1982, and Alma Rosen is 13 years old. She is in her final year of middle school and can feel her world changing around her. Her parents are on the cusp of divorce, she just started her period, and she can see her friendships growing and changing. Alma spends her days listening to music on her Walkman, riding her bike through the East and West Villages of NYC, and eating candy. This novel-in-verse is filled with interstitials such as lists, postcards to family and friends, and letters to her Grandma Miriam who passed away but whom she misses dearly. Alma is Jewish on her paternal side and Chinese on her maternal side, and both of these facets of her identity have deeply influenced the way she walks in the world. All the characters, from primary to tertiary, are fully developed. Alma’s relationships with her grandparents, her parents, her friends, and even her school social worker are important to her and shine throughout the story. Additionally, Cane brings 1980s New York City to life with organic references to the music, books, and media Alma consumes. There is a strong sense of her neighborhood through the friends she spends her days with and landmarks she roams to on her bicycle.
VERDICT This beautifully written, emotionally charged look at growing up and moving through life’s changes is a great addition to upper middle grade collections looking for detailed and nuanced coming-of-age stories.

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