I don’t normally search out books swarming with complicated sixth grade girls, but I had research to do. I wasn’t sure if I was nailing the tween female voice in some of my recent drafts. Two females and one male from my critique group had no problem with what I had written, but I still needed some examples. I had read quite a few novels with a female protagonist set in another time period and found this contemporary title staring back at me on the library shelf. Written from the POV of Annabelle, it looked like I had found my source, written by the talented Leslie Margolis.
This was actually the third book in the ‘Annabelle’ series (preceded by BOYS ARE DOGS and GIRLS ACTING CADDY. And followed by last year’s ONE TOUGH CHICK) and turned out to be a quick read. Frankly, I was exhausted with pages of dialog about who is wearing what and who likes who. Getting beyond the wardrobe choices, it centered around the first dance on Valentine’s weekend and the quest to get a date. The emotional ups and downs of this group of friends had me running around the block for a break several times (and I may have blacked out once or twice when the girls were shopping).
In the end I realized 4th-6th grade girls would love this story. It’s very realistic as to what occurs in many middle schools. It’s just too bad these kids have to grow up so fast. Our world has a way of causing that. Anyhow, it’s fun story for the target audience. As for me, I’m recovering with an old Michael Crichton adult novel.
PUBLICATION DATE:2011 WORD COUNT: 40,675 READING LEVEL: 4.2
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Annabelle has tamed the wild boys and catty girls of middle school. Now it’s time for her first school dance! A couple of Annabelle’s friends already have dates and she would like one, too. Better yet, she finally has a crush on someone-Oliver. The problem? Claire also likes him, and she’s called dibs. To complicate things further, Annabelle has to work super closely with her secret crush on their science fair project! And it looks like one of their competitors is up to something shady. . . . If Annabelle says something, will Oliver respect her for it or think she’s a snitch? And will she ever understand what these junior-high boys are really thinking?
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT EVERYBODY BUGS OUT by Leslie Margolis
- The story revolves around a science fair. It was fun to read how Annabelle and her two partners came up with their idea. I learned a few things about bugs, too.
- Oliver is the center of attention for Annabelle and her friend. He’s a charming kid who shines in the way he avoids the drama swirling around him. He’s the crush and doesn’t know it.
- There was never a mention of racial differences other than Oliver came form Jamaica. It was refreshing that these kids treated everyone with respect no matter what color you happened to be.
- Young readers will enjoy the fact parents and teachers took a back seat to the dialog and action. You are in the middle of Annabelle’s middle school world that shows only brief glimpses of adults.
- The cover is cute with the lady bugs in the shape of a heart with the fresh faced main characters underneath. The paperback version had several different versions with one leaving the kids out altogether.
…He’s also annoying and loud and sometimes a little smelly. Today, for example, he reeked of stale sweat. Last week it was ketchup.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.