S. & S./Aladdin. Feb. 2024. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534489868.
Gr 3-7–Lyla, 12, is in love with the idea of writing. She has a fully formed world and plot in her head but writer’s block has her feeling highly stressed and disappointed in herself, her anxiety verging on panic attacks. In her story, a younger sister saves her older one from various dangers using her quick wits. In reality, Lyla’s sister Dahlia can barely tolerate her. Preoccupied by senior year college applications, Dahlia chafes at her parents’ encouragement that feels more like demands and she takes it out on Lyla. An elementary friendship is unraveling as Lyla insists that friends have to have everything in common; meanwhile, a writing contest deadline looms. All in all, Lyla feels stuck. But gentle support from her ELA teacher helps her deal with the growing anxiety and a possible new friend, who is nothing like Lyla, promises a path ahead. Ultimately, Lyla doesn’t write her story, she lives it, and helps Dahlia find her own path. Short dynamic chapters and Lyla’s distinctive and energetic voice will keep readers flipping the pages. Just as she has in My Life in the Fish Tank and other titles, Dee showcases the power of compassion and understanding during the crucial middle school years of growth and change. Readers see how anxiety starts, how it grows—and how it can be managed. The tips and tricks here about writing and stress will definitely translate to real life.
VERDICT A top choice for middle school libraries and a great handsell for young adults with younger siblings.

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