EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
McCoy, Mary. I, Claudia. Carolrhoda, 2018. 424p. $18.99. ISBN: 9781512448467. Grades 9-12. For readers who love intricate plots and an analytical, if slightly unreliable, narrator, this Printz Honor book is pure joy. Claudia enters as a freshman at Imperial Academy, hoping to fly under the radar, convinced that her severe stutter and a bad limp make her unattractive. As an avid student of history, she plans to remain an observer rather than a participant. But when she ends up unexpectedly on the Student Senate, Claudia is pulled into the intense politics of the upscale school and especially its most powerful group, the Honor Council. Run by students with no adult supervision, the Council can mete out severe punishments to students. Claudia sees corruption around her and schemes to change things, perhaps acting for the greater good or perhaps for her own gain. Tightly written with a memorable main character, this echoes the story of the Roman emperor Claudius but can be enjoyed without knowing that history.
Levy, Daniel Alison. It Wasn't Me. Delacorte, 2018. 330p. ISBN: 9781524766450. $16.99. ISBN: 9781524766450. Grades 5-8. Who defaced seventh-grader Theo's self-portrait photos, which were on exhibit at school? Seventh-grader Theo had known it was a bad idea for the art teacher to hang the photos, but he never expected the angry defacement. The five seventh graders who were nearby during the destruction have a choice: punishment or a justice circle to find out what really happened. They and narrator Theo reluctantly agree to spend their vacation week at school, talking until the truth emerges. Predictably, but with great charm, the plot centers around the six getting to know each other and seeing past appearances. Structured like a mystery, this novel excels at creating different personalities and conveying different challenges kids face in middle school. This is a compassionate, entertaining novel with authentic middle school characters.
Norris, Andrew. Mike. Scholastic, 2019. 240p. i7-99$- ISBN: 9781788450096. Grades 7 up. At age 15, Floyd is fulfilling his parents' dreams. He spent his childhood practicing tennis and now he's one of the best young tennis players in England. But he's thrown off his game when a slightly older teenage boy starts appearing near and even on the tennis court during matches. More baffling still, only Floyd can see and hear Mike, who introduces himself but claims to have no interest in tennis. According to Floyd's psychologist, Mike might be a part of Floyd himself, the part that's not sure he wants to play tennis anymore. Talking with Mike, Floyd resolves to figure out his own dream and pursue it, despite his parents' disappointment. Over the next several years, Floyd deals with setbacks and successes while following Mike's surprising and sometimes confusing advice. A short enjoyable novel full of humor and insight.