Crushing It

Penguin Workshop. Aug. 2024. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593523643.
Gr 5 Up–Former friends learn what happens when they swallow down the fear and doubt and just take their shot. Relatively fresh off a friendship break-up, 13-year-old soccer teammates Mel and Tory, who share narration, attempt to work together on the field but can’t get along off it. Both girls are struggling with big changes and feelings. Mel secretly writes poetry and longs to show more of her real self, wanting to be defined in ways beyond Magic Mel, soccer captain. Tory, whose family has changed and whose mother is now distant, wants not to be seen differently, but just to be seen at all. Both end up filling the friendship void by anonymously messaging a pen pal through their school’s message board. The girls feel like their most comfortable, happiest selves when messaging their new friend. For Tory, who hasn’t told anyone she likes girls, it definitely feels like something more. Readers quickly learn they are actually messaging each other, though it takes most of the story for Mel and Tory to figure that out. Short, fast-paced chapters filled with dialogue show the honest and raw sides of middle school friendships, growth, and identity. The girls are stubborn, mean, and often not great friends to the undeveloped and underutilized secondary characters. But they also adapt to change, learn honesty, and accept that it’s okay to not have all the answers but lots of questions.
VERDICT An authentic, character-driven look at self-doubt and identity.

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