What Happened to Rachel Riley?

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jan. 2023. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063213098.
Gr 5 Up–As East Middle School’s newest student, Anna Hunt has noticed that her classmate, Rachel Riley, is treated like a social outcast. When she is assigned an un-essay project for her Social Issues class, Anna decides to investigate why. Inspired by her favorite podcaster, Mimi Miller, and hoping to land a spot in her summer camp, Anna begins to dig into the past year, recording her process as a podcast. Her findings reveal a “game” wherein boys received points for “slapping girls’ butts,” which somehow led to a fire that canceled an end-of-year dance and is the reason for Rachel’s predicament. When the harassing game is reignited this year in the form of snapping bra straps, and Anna herself is targeted, she’s inspired to incite social change through her project. This book is incredibly relevant and empowering for readers and would serve as a powerful conversation starter. Anna is a determined yet vulnerable protagonist, who eventually realizes that change starts with her. Swinarski’s writing is compelling and multifaceted, using traditional chapters, letters, emails, and text messages to tell the story. Tackling themes of friendship, betrayal, and harassment beautifully, while keeping them accessible to middle schoolers, this book will resonate with readers, and will inspire them to speak up about unjust situations.
VERDICT A necessary purchase for all collections serving middle school readers. Hand to fans of Barbara Dee’s Maybe He Just Likes You.

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