I reviewed Jennifer Swender’s previous MG title, SOLVING FOR M, two years ago. I was happy to see her with a new title worthy of my time. STUCK is one I enjoyed.

Austin is changing schools again. This time it’s June and nearing the end of his 4th grade year. Seems like it would have been better to finish out the term at his previous school but Mom never has them staying in one place very long.

He’ll just stay quiet and hope no one finds out that he can’t read. All the words on a page look like ants. Keeping his cover is not easy, especially with a nice teacher (Ms. G) and a classmate named Bertie who insists on being his friend.

They both want to be chosen for next year’s Safety Squad. The special honor chooses those who are best at monitoring the hallways during the day and the sidewalks before and after school. Plus they get to wear a very cool laser lemon vest. It’s a great goal, but Austin soon finds out there’s a reading and writing test he has to take to qualify Not only that but Mom is often shut up in her room or at work and won’t sign the permission slip.

The plot stays away from revealing what has been the cause of this family’s constant moving, nor are there any details about the Mom’s situation. She does show signs of being a loving parent and is there for Austin when needed. I’m hoping a sequel (or prequel) might be in the works to dive deeper into the family’s past.

Austin’s first person narration is insightful and spot on. The book itself is only 133 pages of text and would make a perfect read for those kids diving into middle grade books for the first time. The size of some recent MG books often reach an intimidating 300-400 pages.

A well done look at the common struggle of a reading disability.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: November 9, 2021


  1. Bertie is the type of friend everyone should have. She’s quirky and talkative, but always brings a positive presence to every encounter.
  2. Teachers will get a few tips on how to conduct a class. Mrs. G’s starter for the day and a math game she has her students play are real keepers for the planning book.
  3. One of my favorites, Bridge to Terabithia, is the book Austin pretends to read. He does find help understanding through an audio recording of the story, helping him make comparisons between he and Bertie and the two kids in the book.
  4. Each chapter is titled with colors like Pacific Blue; Outrageous Orange for chapter 2. It’s a small hint as to what’s ahead for Austin. Very different approach but it works.
  5. Quiet kids like Austin rarely get main character status. He’s a welcome addition for others like him to see themselves in a different light.


Jennifer Swender was a classroom teacher for many years before turning to writing full-time. Her debut middle grade novel Solving for M is winner of the 2020 Mathical Book Prize, as well as a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and finalist for the Land of Enchantment Book Award, the Georgia Children’s Book Award and the William Allen White Children’s Book Award. Together with Paul DuBois Jacobs, she is also the author of many picture books and early chapter books. When she’s not writing, Jennifer develops curriculum materials for students and teachers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.


Comments are welcome below!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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9 Responses to STUCK

  1. This sounds like a great story. I hope they have a sequel that deals with some of the issues about Austin’s family.

  2. This is similar to a MG novel and a PB I’m reading about a girl with a reading disability. I enjoyed your review as it sounds like a really good book. Glad that there are books like this for kids who have reading disability. They are clever and outsmart parents and teachers — and have gifts to help them. Thanks for sharing today!

  3. Sue Heavenrich says:

    sounds like the sort of book I wish I’d had a few years ago for my reluctant readers and students with reading disabilities.

  4. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like a lovely story! Details like Bertie, the color names for the chapters, and Austin being a quiet kid yet a protagonist definitely make this book intriguing. Also, I appreciate that this book is actually short, so students with reading disabilities that are mild or improving might be able to read it in a non-prohibitive amount of time—there is something always mildly contradictory about writing long novels with characters who struggle with reading. I do hope a sequel comes out to explore the family situation more! Thanks so much for the excellent review, Greg!

  5. carolbaldwin says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful review. It does sound like a good bridge into younger MG books.

  6. I do like shorter books. Not too short, but I shy away from those 400 page ones. This one looks really good!

  7. My stepson was dyslexic, so I am always interested when I find a book with that problem as a focus. This one sounds great. I like short books. I’ll be looking for this one. Thanks for the review.

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