How To Be a Girl in the World

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Aug. 2020. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062672704.
Gr 3-7–Carter crafts a powerful middle grade novel about sexual harassment and the adults who often diminish or ignore it. The story is centered around seventh grader Lydia who lives with her mom and cousin Emma. Lydia sees her father two days a week, spending more time with her mom’s boyfriend Jeremy. For months Lydia has not felt comfortable in her own skin. She wears long sleeves and pants in the hot Brooklyn summer to hide her body from boys and men, like the ones in school who call her “Swing” because they like the way the skirt of her Catholic school uniform swings between her legs, and like Jeremy whose hugs and touches linger. Throughout the novel Lydia reasons with herself that she must be overreacting; if these things weren’t okay, then surely an adult would have already intervened. When Lydia discovers a book of magic in her new home, she crafts a spell for protection and hopes all of her problems will go away. When she is expelled from her parochial school for use of magic, she is forced to finally confide all of her problems in her mother, who is the first adult to tell Lydia that what has been happening is not okay. The story ends on a hopeful note, and overall Carter does a good job in addressing the topics of sexual assault and consent for middle grade students.
VERDICT While this novel leaves readers with an important message about sexual harassment, it is not didactic. An excellent addition to middle grade collections.

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