Keep It Together, Keiko Carter

Scholastic. May 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338607529.
Gr 5-8–With besties Audrey and Jenna by her side, Keiko Carter is looking forward to seventh grade, envisioning awesome clubs, school dances, and more independence. But reality is not as sweet. Keiko’s friend group unravels when both Jenna and Audrey develop a crush on the same guy. Her family is changing, with her Mom working longer hours and her sister sneaking out. After spending time with Audrey’s older brother Conner and his pals, Keiko finds herself questioning the qualities of a true friend. Florence’s tween drama will resonate with its audience. Through Keiko’s narration, readers experience her thoughts and conversations, but will also see beyond Keiko’s clouded perspective to a more authentic view of her friends. At times the author’s inclusion of background information, such as Keiko’s odd relationship with her alcoholic grandfather, seem out of place, perhaps a failed attempt to add depth. The novel’s ending feels abrupt as the plot spins to focus more on Keiko’s new dog and relationship with Conner, never resolving her friendships. This sudden ending also obscures the central plot point of a potential romantic relationship, leaving readers with many loose ends and no contemplation from Keiko.
VERDICT Overall, this novel will interest teens thirsty for drama, but little more. Recommended strictly for libraries needing to expand their realistic fiction collection.

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