Anyone who has ever had a best friend move away, had their parents embarrass them in front of their classmates, been tormented and teased by "popular" kids at school, or had to do a presentation that they are terrified will be a disaster will understand Ana completely. Her best friend Liv has moved to New Zealand, her parents are zoologists who have moved the family into one of the research houses at the zoo, the Sneerers (Ana's name for a group of popular girls who tease her constantly) have done everything they can to bug her all year, and her grandfather is a famous animal expert that is including his family in the new documentary he is filming. Could the end of seventh grade get any worse? Yup, it sure could. Pesky things like oral presentations in English, a sneak attack involving chicken parmesan in the lunchroom, the horror of her parents participating in Career Day at school, the possibility of failing math, a final art project to illustrate "Your True Seventh-Grade Self"...the pressure and possibilities for public shame keep mounting. Will Ana survive these last weeks of seventh grade and make it to summer vacation?
I think having any one of these problems is enough to give someone a bad day, or a stomach ache, or both. Having them all one after another and overlapping seems like a greatest hits parade of teen pain. It doesn't help that Ana seems to be the only one in her family who is shy and nervous about being the center of attention. Our empathy with Ana makes us especially grateful for the glimmers of kindness and friendship that help get her through these tough times. Readers who haven't reached seventh grade yet need to remember that all these disasters don't befall every student - and they can be survived. For those of us who have completed middle school, we will probably suffer some sympathy pains as her struggles bring up memories of our own embarrassments at that age.
If you enjoy realistic fiction and stories that reflect school and family situations (especially with comic relief and random animal facts mixed in), then you should definitely read this book. Also a great read for anyone who roots for the underdog and always hopes that bullies and mean-spirited peers get paid back for their evil. For anyone who enjoys Andrew Clements and his school stories or Carl Hiassen and his stories that include Florida's wildlife, this is a blend of those two styles that will have you sympathetically teary-eyed over Ana's misfortunes and cheering for her victories.
Read alikes: SCAT by Carl Hiaasen; Andrew Clements' NO TALKING
978-1402297557 288 pages Ages 8-12
Recommended by: Suzanne Costner, Library Media Specialist, Tennessee USA
See more of her recommendations: The Fairview Review http://fveslibrary.blogspot.com