Twelve year old May (Maeve--except that she hates that name) is in trouble. She has been acting up, fighting with friends, talking back to teachers and her dad, and now she's finally gone too far! May has painted graffiti on the wall of her English teacher's classroom. Her punishment is to attend summer school and repeat English--with that very same teacher.
May hates Movado the Avocado--what she secretly calls Ms. Movado behind her back--and simply won't put up with her every day of the summer.
Since her mother left, May has been in trouble and her grades have slipped, her father works too much and her grandmother is depressed and rarely leaves the bedroom. When May has a huge fight with her best friend Olive, May soon discovers she has no one else to turn to.
Days spent in English class drag on at first, but then May begins to realize that even teachers are human. As she gets closer to Ms. Movado, May begins to realize her own behavior needs to change.
Readers won't see the shocking ending until it's upon them. Deftly told, believable characters, and tween angst abound.
Highly recommended grades 5-8. 252 pages
Recommended by Pamela Thompson, MLIS, Library Media Specialist, Texas
Visit her at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
“Gram drew back. She looked shocked, almost frightened. I’d never once, in all my thirteen years, said anything rude to her. I hadn’t even come close. Right now, though, it didn’t matter. I felt like a runaway train, going a hundred miles an hour with no sign of stopping or even slowing down. People needed to stand back—far, far back—before they got hurt.” May’s life over the past year has been leading up to this point. Since Momma left, May has been spiraling into anger, depression, and, increasingly—into rage.
Her life has become so small, occupied only by Gram, whose depression has reduced her to a bag of bones in a housecoat, usually in bed; Dad, whose work repairing roads leaves him so exhausted that he often forgets to bring home dinner and whose sadness drains him of anything except the ability to go to work and sleep; and Olive, the “unpopular girl” friend who sounds just like the life coach her mother has become, but whose friendship is the only handhold in May’s miserable days. Oh—and her rage. Rage fills up Mays days, bubbling over into physical confrontations that have driven away the other friends, the “popular” girls like Brittany whose conversations and lunch-table dramas used to give May’s life focus.
When that rage finally takes the form of revenge against English teacher Ms. Movado, a.k.a. “Movado the Avocado,” May is forced to face an ultimatum: either repeat Ms. Movado’s class over the summer, or be expelled from school. When May accepts the summer school option, she is shocked to discover that she is “Movado the Avocado’s” only pupil—and that she’s expected to repaint her entire classroom, the very room she defaced with an angry slur.
Over the course of the summer, the reader gets to know everything about May—her dismal life in a crappy apartment in the poor side of town, her penchant for looking up strange “extreme bodies”facts on Guinness World Records online, her fondness for her pet hermit crab, her lifeline texts to and from Olive, and her dislike for writing. Ms. Movado cleverly designs outings designed to get May to write and to understand the craft of writing, and those compositions start to pull back the curtains covering up May’s life, slowly but surely, until May is exposed for who she really is, for what really happened to her, to Momma, to Gram, to Dad, to what used to be their family.
At the story’s end, May is onstage, fully exposed, stripped bare of any lies or mystery or pride; so, too, are her family’s secrets, the truth, the strange intersection of her life with that of Ms. Movado, and all the pain. Fans of books such as Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons and Love That Dog will want to be pulled into the life of a tragic heroine whose journey ultimately washes her clean and sets her free. Highly recommended for girls grades 5 and up.
Recommended by Shari Shaw, MLIS, School Librarian, Michigan