MMGM: RUBY REINVENTED by Ronni Arno

I can’t remember the last time I had two MMGMs in a row, but here we are! When I attended NESCBWI this spring, I met several middle grade writers, and I’m still working my way through the books I acquired. One of those books, RUBY REINVENTED, I picked up because I’d read a blog post by author Ronni Arno that included a blurb at the end. So blog tours definitely work! Also, the author herself is absolutely delightful.

Ruby Reinvented by Ronni ArnoWhen 12-year-old Ruby Miller learns that her BFFs are only friends with her because of her famous parents, she finds a place far from celebrity-crazy Hollywood–a Maine boarding school.

In her panic to distance herself from her star-studded folks, Ruby tells her new friends that she’s an orphan. She feels awful lying to her weird but wonderful roommate Summer (the first real friend Ruby has ever had), but not awful enough. In fact, now that nobody’s comparing her to her remarkable parents, Ruby can finally let her unique talents as a dress designer take center stage.

But when Ruby finds herself connecting with a boy who really did lose his parents, she’s torn between who she is and who she’s pretending to be. And with Parents’ Weekend approaching, she must find a way to keep her secret… without losing her new best friend, the trust of her first crush, and the chance to shine as the designer of her own fashion show.

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. Ruby’s lie – Wait, you’re probably thinking, you love that she lies? Well, no, I don’t love that she lies. What I love is how this lie changes her. It’s awful that she lies, but the lie is what leads to her discovering what’s truly important–and it’s not completely what she expects it to be.

2. The parents – Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows I like to highlight parents, and I particularly like the two sets of parents featured in this book. First we have Ruby’s parents, who are mega-stars. They love Ruby but perhaps have as much to learn as she does. And then there are Summer’s parents, who give Ruby a glimpse of a different kind of family, without paparazzi and handlers. I like how both are handled in the book.

3. The crush – Ruby is so adorable with her crush on Connor, all mixed up with her guilt over not being honest with him. I really appreciated how they got to know each other and the resolution to their story.

4. The friendships – There’s a reason friendship is the focus of so many MG books. Many kids base their worth on their friendships at this age. Ruby certainly does at the beginning of the book. While that’s not healthy, it’s a new friend who helps Ruby see her own value and gain confidence in herself. By the end of the story, I had hope for Ruby’s future friendships and how she’ll view her place in them.

5. The fashion – I loved that Ruby was passionate about fashion and had learned how to create her own designs with her nanny, Ellie. As a side note, her relationship with Ellie was also very sweet. The descriptions of the dresses really came to life, and the way they fit into the overall story was perfect.

If you haven’t read RUBY REINVENTED, I recommend you pick it up!

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MMGM: THE SEVENTH WISH by Kate Messner

If you’re part of the kidlit community, perhaps you’ve heard about author Kate Messner being uninvited from a school because of the content of her latest book, THE SEVENTH WISH, which addresses the story of a young girl whose older sister becomes addicted to heroin. If not, you can read about it here (there’s also an update at the bottom). As a parent, I understand the desire to shield your child from what may seem like a far-off reality. But as someone who’s already had to explain addiction to my six and eight-year-old in at least basic terms because they’ve seen the consequences of it, I understand the importance of a book like THE SEVENTH WISH. Am I going to give it to my children  now? Of course not. But with the right preparation and discussion, and when they’re old enough, yes. This book is entirely appropriate both to show kids why they should avoid addictive substances and to help a child close to an addict.

The Seventh Wish by Kate MessnerWhen Charlie Brennan goes ice fishing on her town’s cold winter lake, she’s hoping the perch she reels in will help pay for a fancy Irish dancing solo dress. But when Charlie’s first catch of the day offers her a wish in exchange for its freedom, her world turns upside down.

Charlie catches the fish again and again, but each time, her wishes go terribly and hilariously wrong. Just when things are finally starting to turn around, a family crisis with her older sister forces Charlie to accept the fact that some of the toughest challenges in life can’t be fixed by wishing.

 

Instead of my usual five things I loved most about the book, I’m going to do five reasons you should read this book.

1. Charlie’s honesty – Even before her sister’s addiction surfaces, Charlie feels secondary in her family, and she struggles with her own reactions to that. I loved how honest she was about herself and where she fit into everything. She’s angry with Abby, even while her heart is breaking. My heart was breaking, too.

2. The theme – It says it right there in the description, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by sharing it. You can’t wish away your problems. Every time Charlie makes a wish, it gets twisted up somehow. I especially like the wish about the boy, but I won’t spoil that.

3. The truths – Some of this goes along with the honesty, but there was a particular passage toward the end that really hit home for me.

Instead of showing those videos with the greasy-haired people in D.A.R.E. classes, they should show kids like Abby. Soccer forwards and calculus students, student council presidents and homecoming queens and big sisters. They should show those people lying to their families and sitting ashamed in the hospital, tugging on their sleeves to hide the marks on their arms, struggling to breathe, crying when they have to tell the truth. That because they broke a promise they made in fifth grade, nothing can ever be the same.

Wow. On another note, there’s a teacher in Maine who received an advanced copy of the book last October and worked with her school’s D.A.R.E. officer to create a program using the book. Her post about it and the video at the end of the kids speaking to their future selves is so powerful.

4. Charlie’s friends – I love how unique each of them is. Drew with his gross facts. Catherine with her flour baby. Dasha with her coding. Charlie has a solid group of friends to support and distract her.

5. The dancing and the fishing – Yes, these are two completely different things, but they end up being tied together for Charlie. She needs money to buy her Irish dancing dress, so she goes out ice fishing with Drew and his grandma to earn more and becomes a rather proficient fisherman. Well, then there’s that magic fish … The point is, there’s more to the story than what happens with Abby.

I hope more schools will find ways to incorporate THE SEVENTH WISH and other books like it. Addiction is an important topic, and more kids are affected by it–even at an early age–than they may realize. Yes, educators should be cautious about what they give kids to read at what age. I’m all for that. But if you pair a book like this with a curriculum discussing the topic, it would be so beneficial.

Ok, I’m going to step off my soapbox now. Have you read THE SEVENTH WISH? What are your thoughts?

Posted in Character, Middle Grade, MMGM, Reading, Review | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

What I’ve Learned in Five Years of Querying

I’ve become a huge fan of the memories that pop up on Facebook. It’s a fun way to look through old photos, videos, and the occasional comment. Anyway, on July 3, a writing-related post showed up that made me smile and shake my head at the naive Michelle of five years ago, but it’s appropriate to this post, so I’m going to share it. Here’s what I put on Facebook July 3, 2011:

Novel update: For those of you wondering, the novel is finished! At least for now … I’m going to start submitting to agents when we get back from vacation. Once I find one, there’ll be more revisions, then once it goes to a publisher, more revisions. It’s a very long process! So now I’m writing the next one…

Well, I was right about it being a very long process! That particular novel, which was then titled ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY and you can now find as THE MODERN CAVEBOY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING BATS, BULLIES AND BILLIONAIRES under the Writing tab, eventually got shelved. I’ve since queried three other novels and currently have a fifth novel out with agents. I sent out that first batch of queries for CAVEBOY on July 11, 2011, and one year later I posted what I’d learned. It’s become a tradition to add to my experiences each year, and I now have posts for two, three, and four years of querying. I try to keep the points new each year, but it’s getting harder:). Here we go!

No matter how optimistic you are, you’re also a realist. I start every morning thinking, “This could be the day an agent offers representation!” But whenever my Gmail dings, I tell myself it’s a rejection. Why? Because even though I believe that offer will eventually come, I can’t get my hopes up every time a new email comes through. I’ve been disappointed too many times. One day, when I have that how-I-got-my-agent story to tell, I’ll share the statistics. I mean, this is a five years of querying post, so you know that adds up to a lot of rejections!

As your friends sign with–and leave–agents, you get an inside look at those agents and start to form opinions about them. I mentioned last year that the caliber of my critique partners and beta readers has gotten higher and higher. It’s because we started out together years ago and many of them have gone on to sign with agents and even be published. As that’s happened, I’ve listened to their experiences. A few have quietly parted ways with their agents. They’ve shared the details with me behind the scenes, and in a few cases I’ve removed agents from my list. But for others, it was simply a matter of that writer and agent not being a fit–not necessarily an issue that would apply for me or other writers. The best testimonials, of course, are the writer friends who recommend their agents highly.

The more connections you make, the harder it is to enter contests because it’s more likely you know the organizers/judges. In year one, I learned the benefit of contests, and I still think contests are a great strategy to get in front of agents. The thing is … I’ve really tapped that contest market and made excellent connections. So it starts to become awkward. There are contests I can’t enter at all because my friends are running them and others where my choices are limited because my CPs have connections to them. There are always Twitter pitch parties, though!

You start to feel almost ambivalent when you send out queries. I remember the buzz I felt five years ago when I sent out my first batch of queries, how anxious I was to check my email for responses. It’s dulled significantly over the years. I still felt it somewhat when I started querying my fourth manuscript, but with the fifth one, even though I knew it was my best work yet and had the highest probability of anything I’d written of garnering agent interest, I found myself less concerned about how each individual agent would respond. My sense of worth in my writing ability wasn’t so attached to their interest in my manuscript. I’m not sure if that means I’ve achieved some level of zen or peace or what. To be honest, it kind of concerned me that I wasn’t caring enough. Don’t worry, though. I still care about the submissions!

You might have to turn down an opportunity because your gut says it’s wrong. Maybe it’s an agent you thought would be a fit–because you shouldn’t be wasting an agent’s time with a query if you wouldn’t consider signing with him/her!–and then you talk and realize you have a different vision for your manuscript. Or maybe you receive one of those if rejections. Some of you understand what I’m talking about. An agent (or editor) says, “I’d be willing to take another look if you do x, y, z.” It can be a heady email because it means the agent loved something about your work. Here’s someone who believes you have potential, so of course you should do whatever he/she says! Except … make sure that if involves changes you can live with and believe in, because it’s still your story. Only revise if you agree with the suggestions. If you don’t, walk away, no matter how hard it may be. If you can’t overcome your doubts, it’s probably not the right fit for you. But if the changes resonate with you, by all means, revise away!

You never know for sure if something will work until you try it. There may come a time when you want to try a creative element with a manuscript–maybe write it out of order or write it all in tweets or–ahem–include screenplay scenes. It might be exactly the right thing for your manuscript. Or it might not. Sometimes you have to put it out there to the people who know the market (agents/editors) to get a true read on it. But if you are trying something unique with your manuscript, keep a close eye on your feedback and be prepared to revise if it turns out the market isn’t ready for your text-messages-from-your-dead-cat manuscript. (Hmm … that might be funny!)

Just because an agent has never requested from you before doesn’t mean they won’t now. I’ve said the opposite of this before. There’s an agent who requested three of my previous manuscripts and didn’t even reply to my current one, but that’s okay. It’s obviously not her thing. But to prove my current point, multiple agents who’ve rejected all of my previous manuscripts have requested this one, so you never know. It’s always worth trying an agent again because maybe your current project is the one that will finally get the agent’s attention.

It’s okay to return to a project you really love. I’ve shared elsewhere about how I haven’t been able to let go of my second project, which is now my work-in-progress again. I felt sort of guilty at first, like it might be a waste of my time to focus on a novel I’d queried extensively and ultimately had to shelve. But I kept having new ideas how to fix it, so I gave myself permission to return to it, and I’m so glad I did. With three more years of writing experience to bolster it, I know it’s a much stronger novel. Now it’s just a matter of deciding what to do with it!

If you have the means and opportunity to meet your online writing friends in person, do it! You know those critique partners who read your manuscripts multiple times, suffer through your email rants, and generally are the best cheerleaders in the world? I have several of those in my camp, and I’ve been working with them for years, but until a couple of months ago, I’d never met any of them in person. NESCBWI was the perfect opportunity to meet not only one of my longtime CPs, but also a number of other writers and published authors I’ve chatted with online. I wouldn’t give up the emails, Twitter DMs, or gchats for anything, but the in-person time was so valuable. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it every year, but it’s now my mission to travel around and meet up with my other CPs, too!

So that’s what I learned in year five. I guess I’ll start working on year six lessons tomorrow, because I’m definitely not giving up! What have you learned on this querying journey? Anything you’d like to share?

Posted in Agents, Contests, Querying, Revising, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

LET THE WIND RISE and A Few Other YA Books You Should Read

It’s time for another young adult reading roundup! Between series (how do you make a plural of a plural??) I love ending, attending NESCBWI, and winning a giveaway with several books, my to-be-read pile is so tall I’ve resorted to letting random.org choose what I’ll read next. As I was updating the reading tab on my blog, I realized there were several books I’ve read recently that I really should highlight with a post. But first, I could still use some input about how to label my current manuscript. If you have a minute to check out my post and give me some thoughts, I’d really appreciate it! Now on to the mini-reviews!

First up, LET THE WIND RISE by Shannon Messenger. I reviewed the first book in the series, LET THE SKY FALL, in 2013, and covered the second book in another roundup. I thoroughly enjoyed the final book in the trilogy–but then, I love everything Shannon Messenger writes, so no surprise there! I read this book in a day and a half, mainly because every chapter was a total cliffhanger.

Let the Wind Rise by Shannon MessengerVane Weston is ready for battle. Against Raiden’s army. Against the slowly corrupting Gale Force. Even against his own peaceful nature as a Westerly. He’ll do whatever it takes, including storming Raiden’s icy fortress with the three people he trusts the least. Anything to bring Audra home safely.

But Audra won’t wait for someone to rescue her. She has Gus—the guardian she was captured with. And she has a strange “guide” left behind by the one prisoner who managed to escape Raiden. The wind is also rising to her side, rallying against their common enemy. When the forces align, Audra makes her play—but Raiden is ready.

Freedom has never held such an impossible price, and both groups know the sacrifices will be great. But Vane and Audra started this fight together. They’ll end it the same way.


I totally thought I wrote a review of LADY RENEGADES, the final book in the Rebel Belle series by Rachel Hawkins, but apparently not. You can read my short review of REBEL BELLE and my longer review of MISS MAYHEM. I loved how Rachel Hawkins wrapped up this series, and I have to admit I was a little concerned it wouldn’t be possible. Well done!

LADY RENEGADES by Rachel HawkinsJust as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark’s battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenage girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town…which means her life is on the line yet again.


I gushed about The Selection series earlier this year, but I held off on reading THE HEIR until I could also read THE CROWN. I’m so glad I did because I sure hate waiting for a finale:). I also picked up HAPPILY EVER AFTER and enjoyed reading the novellas that go along with the original series. I wonder if Kiera Cass will do some of those for the second-generation characters.

The Crown by Kiera CassWhen Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.


I’ve enjoyed several books by Sarah Mlynowski, especially her Whatever After series for younger readers, so I was excited when I won a copy of DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Just the concept of a group of kids getting ESP from a flu shot is intriguing, but the way she executes it with a first person plural POV is fantastic.

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah MlynowskiWe weren’t always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what’s coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.

So stop obsessing about your ex. We’re always listening.


You know those books everyone LOVES that you hesitate to read because you’re afraid you won’t love them, too? Oh, maybe that’s just me. Actually, it doesn’t happen all the time. Often I’ll know from the description that I’m going to adore the book, but sometimes there’s so much hype I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed–because it’s happened a few times. That wasn’t the case at all with THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. I expected a love story, but I got so much more. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book made me tear up, and that is not easy to do. (Just ask my husband. I don’t even cry at funerals.)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. SmithToday should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.


That’s all I have for today. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have any other reading suggestions for me based on the above?

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What Genre Is This Manuscript? Plus A Call for Readers

I’ve finally finished revising that manuscript that wouldn’t let me go (read more about that here or here), and it’s time to give it a new title and description here on the blog. One of my CPs was getting after me because even though I’d told her the new title, I was still calling it DUET:). Anyway, the new title is …

*drumroll*

… THE MUSIC STEALS YOUR SOUL.

I don’t think it gives away quite as much as the previous title did, but still there’s a hint of what to expect in the story. So from now on, we’ll call it MUSIC:).

I have a new description, too, which I’ll get to in a second. But first I’d like to explain a dilemma I’m having. When I queried this manuscript in 2012-13, I called it magical realism. No one gave me any trouble about it, but as I’ve read more magical realism over the past few years and studied the definition, I don’t think that’s what it is. My writing style is much more commercial than literary (although there are some musical passages in the MS that I’d like to think have a lyrical feel), so even though the basic definition of the real world with one magic element could technically work, I don’t think it’s right. At the same time, paranormal implies some type of creature to me, like vampires or ghosts, so that doesn’t fit either. I’ve already asked a few writer friends, and the suggestion I like best so far is “contemporary young adult with a supernatural twist.” However, I would love to get some more feedback on this genre question, so here is the description.

Fifteen-year-old violin prodigy Miranda Harper has had a single goal since she was nine: perfection. For nearly as long, everyone has been telling her perfection’s a myth. So when Miranda’s new violin delivers the elusive goal, she’s only a little concerned perfection comes along with an actual myth, sweeping her into the story of the music she’s playing, “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Miranda’s best friend, Lizzie, insists the violin’s possessed, but obviously it’s magical. Admittedly a few of the side effects in subsequent trips, like draining her energy and souvenir injuries, veer more horror-movie. (After visiting Psycho, she totally gets the screeching violins.) But perfection is worth anything. The violin knows what’s best for her. It even points her toward a perfect, older guy who understands her music instead of the boy who’d clearly distract her.

She’s in complete control of the violin, no matter what Lizzie thinks. Or … maybe not. As Miranda dabbles in increasingly dangerous trips into the music, she discovers the price of perfection may be more than she’s willing to pay.

So that’s my working description. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with this, but should I decide to query it or enter any contests in the future, I’ll have to give it a genre label. What would you call it?

My second request is bigger. I’m looking for some new readers for this manuscript. My CPs want to read the new version, but before they do, I’d really like some fresh eyes on it. So let me know if you’re interested in reading THE MUSIC STEALS YOUR SOUL. I could send a few chapters to start with and see if it grabs you/we’re a fit. I’m always happy to return the favor as well. As far as a timeline, I’d like to have it back from readers by July 15 or so to decide next steps. Anyway, if you’re interested send me an email at mfaszold (at) hotmail (dot) com and introduce yourself. If we already know each other but just have never read for each other, that’s great too!

Looking forward to everyone’s thoughts on the new description and how I should classify this manuscript. THANK YOU!

Posted in Revising, Writing, Young Adult | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

YA Review: WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED by Kristin Rae

I really enjoyed Kristin Rae’s debut, WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN, so I expected to like her latest, WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED, but it turns out I liked it even more. So that means I need to gush about it here with a full review.

What You Always Wanted by Kristin RaeTheatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The old movies – I wouldn’t call myself a classic movie buff, although I have a small collection. I haven’t seen all of the movies referenced in the book, but it doesn’t matter. Maddie’s passion for Gene Kelly and her descriptions are enough to carry the reader through. It was a unique but completely believable obsession for her to have.

2. Maddie’s perfect guy – I loved that Maddie had this picture of the perfect guy in her head. But I also loved the question at the center of the story–how Maddie had to grow throughout the story and realize that it’s fine to adjust that image.

3. Maddie’s confidence – Often confidence is something a character has to earn during a story, but in this case Maddie has it in spades, and I liked that about her. Maddie doesn’t back down when faced with a bully or a challenge. It earns her instant friends–and perhaps an enemy.

4. Maddie’s character growth – I alluded to this a bit with the perfect guy point, but Maddie also grows in adjusting her dreams. She has so many strong opinions about who she’s supposed to be and what she’s supposed to do, and she has to take some strong knocks to figure out there are shades of gray.

5. Maddie’s parents – There is a whole subplot with Maddie’s parents that I can’t say too much about here or risk giving something away, but I really liked them. They were dealing with a challenge, and they approached it with grace and optimism, no matter how Maddie reacted. Yay for positive parents!

Have you read WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED? What did you think?

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MMGM: COUNTING THYME by Melanie Conklin

I’ve been anxiously awaiting Melanie Conklin’s COUNTING THYME for what seems like forever. We’ve been Twitter friends for years, and she even read a partial of one of my manuscripts once (thanks again, Melanie!), after which she recommended I read THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas. Love the whole series! In any case, COUNTING THYME completely lived up to my expectations, and I’m thrilled to review it for MMGM.

Counting Thyme by Melanie ConklinWhen eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours and the days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The title – Yes, there’s a reason her name is Thyme, and it’s explained. But this title has multiple meanings and I love the play on words. It’s just perfect on so many levels.

2. Thyme’s family – I loved every member of this family, from Thyme’s mom trying to hold everyone–including herself–together, her dad maintaining some fun where possible, her sister acting out, and her brother surviving. And where did that leave Thyme? That central question invested me from page one.

3. The friendships – There were multiple friendship stories happening within the book: Thyme and her best friend back home, Thyme and the girls at school, Thyme and the boy at school, Thyme observing the friendship between the girls at school. I liked how Thyme had to sort out these friendships and discover how she fit into each one.

4. The sound production team – How cool that Thyme found a project in the midst of everything else she was going through. I enjoyed reading about her experiments finding everyday objects that would make the desired sounds for the play. It was an interesting subplot that also fit very well into the overall story as she had to decide where this Thyme project fit into her family.

5. Mrs. Ravelli and Mr. Lipinsky – I loved both of these characters. They were polar opposites, and yet they both played critical roles in helping Thyme adjust to life in New York and giving her purpose. Plus, they’re both extremely well-written characters. I’d really like to try that cake Mrs. Ravelli baked for the Owens …

If you haven’t read COUNTING THYME yet, I suggest you do so. I have a feeling this one will be getting some award attention.

Posted in Character, Middle Grade, MMGM, Reading, Review | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments