Averil Offline

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Feb. 2024. 208p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593618646.
Gr 4-7–Middle school tech whiz Averil attends public school in her upscale neighborhood with her best friend Priya. Despite her brilliance, the tech class is an uncomfortable place for Averil and the few girls there; the teacher, Mr. Ballinger, has created a hostile environment for them, and Averil responds by trying to go unnoticed. However, her skills catch the eye of new kid Max McClaren. Max is no tech genius but his father is, and he recognizes and admires Averil’s capabilities. Max needs Averil’s help to pull off a “cyber caper” to meet with famous young tech wizard, Rider Woollyback. Woollyback’s Ruby Slippers app has created a mildly dystopian world of stifling parental oversight that has fractured the relationship between parents and children, eroding any trust. Max hopes that he and Averil can plead their case and put a stop to it. But it’s a puzzling and suspenseful path to get to Woollyback, and when Averil sees the consequences of capitulating to the Mr. Ballingers of the world, she has a tough choice to make. This is a good fit for those who appreciate stories where kids have plenty to teach, and it’s the adults who should sit down and listen. Averil’s struggle to find her voice is a connection point, even for readers whose lives don’t look like hers.
VERDICT Parks expertly paints a picture of how gender discrimination affects students, while also illustrating the power of advocacy and autonomy wrapped up in a thrilling tech adventure.

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