The Class

Atheneum//Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Oct. 2019. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481481793.
Gr 5-7–Sixth grader Ellie starts off the school year as the new kid and decides to learn about her classmates by writing a novel called The Class. The book will feature everyone in her homeroom, which is run by the beloved Mrs. Herrera. Each character gets their own chapter, with illustrations at the beginning. Conflicts include friendship woes, the theft of Mrs. Herrera’s favorite things that usually rest on her bookshelf, and the mysterious reappearance of Sam, who had moved away. Stereotypes abound—jocks, mean girls, nerds, etc. One of the more insightful characters explains how hard it is to be labeled as just an athlete when he is so much more. This is a feel-good book about being good, with a dollop of activism. A girl writes a thought-provoking letter about the difference between being nice and being good. Justice is meted out in general, but not necessarily to those who need it most. This is a novel about writing a novel, so students who love books about writers will find it appealing. Dashes of humor and suspense surrounding several mysterious events make this title a pleasure to read. Moments when the students band together to do the right thing are especially touching.
VERDICT For fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Next Great Paulie Fink; this book covers similar ground but is more pat.

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