Five Things About Ava Andrews

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jun. 2020. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062803498.
Gr 3-6–Dilloway (Summer of a Thousand Pies, Momotaro) returns to middle grade with this hopeful story of invisible disabilities, friendship, and advocating for one’s beliefs. Like the author, 11-year-old Ava has non-compaction cardiomyopathy and uses an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) to help manage her condition. Ava is also quite anxious, and she’s quiet around everyone but her best friend, who just moved across the country. Ava finds confidence and friendship when she begins taking improv classes, and together the group works to save a favorite locale from gentrification. Along the way, Ava discovers she’s not the only one struggling with unseen hurdles, and tender moments reveal what it’s like to be on both sides of assumption. Dilloway covers a lot of ground including social justice, mental health, physical ability, and prejudice, but all the while the narrative is hopeful and encouraging. Ava describes herself as having her mother’s Japanese features, and a diverse cast is implied through brief descriptions.
VERDICT Dilloway’s latest provides a valuable perspective on living with a heart condition and anxiety as a tween; many will relate to Ava, even if their own experiences aren’t an exact reflection of hers. Ideal for book clubs and discussions, this is recommended as a general purchase.

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