Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Oct. 2021. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062996633.
Gr 3-7–Gwendolyn Rogers has a list of 54 things that are wrong with her, compiled from the individualized education program (IEP) report she wasn’t supposed to see. She is inattentive, too demanding, and overemotional, to name just a few items on the list. But somehow the adults in Gwendolyn’s life can’t seem to diagnose her, and Gwendolyn is convinced she’s just bad. If only she were more like her half brother Tyler, who has been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and takes medication to help him focus. Gwendolyn feels calm only when she’s with horses, a privilege that was taken away from her after a bad experience at equine therapy. Gwendolyn’s single mom, with the help of Tyler’s mother, is finally able to get her to see Dr. Nessa, who works through treatment options with her. Throughout the novel, characters have conversations about addiction, sexism at school, and gender identity. At times the book becomes didactic, but the facts presented about gender and neurodiversity are important ones, and the overall authentic voice makes up for these moments. Dr. Nessa is cued as Black; all other characters are cued as white.
VERDICT Carter draws from her own experience as a neurodivergent person to create a novel worth adding to middle grade collections. This book will resonate with neurodivergent and neurotypical kids alike.

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