Autumn is faced with a new school year, her first in middle school. The transition won’t be easy since her best friend has moved to California. Even worse—Dad left to volunteer with the Peace Corp in Ecuador for three years. She has a mom who is an animal vet and a younger sister.

Once school begins Autumn’s anxiety about having to talk in class doesn’t go away but the friend front gets a boost when she meets Cooper and Logan. These new friends couldn’t be more different but Autumn tries to make it work, spending time with each.

Her teacher sponsors the school newspaper and picks one student a year to become the secret Dear Student advice giver. Kids write in with a question and the mystery person writes back. The question and answer are then printed in the next edition of the paper. Autumn is chosen and begins her task and provides some great answers. She does have a voice after all!

The task gets more difficult when Autumn’s advice puts her in a bind with her new friends who have opposite feelings about a local company doing testing on animals. She struggles with continuing as the secret voice, understanding her father’s absence, and not knowing what to say out loud.

I was internally furious at the father for leaving his family when his presence during the crucial stage of his girls growing up was needed more. He has just as much growing up to do as his kids.

Beyond that, Autumn’s first person narration flows smoothly through 54 short chapters. Her voice may not be strong in class but carries itself in the story to a level that is both engaging and hard to put down. Heartfelt and truthful to the times, DEAR STUDENT explores friendship, the bond between sisters, and a family break up that for once has nothing to do with divorce or death. Highly recommended for 5th grade and up.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: February 15, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 304


  1. I’ve never been fortunate to come across the delicious sounding dessert know as a whoopee pie. My waist line is going to take a hit as the recipe is shared in the back pages. WHOOPEE!
  2. Autumn is one of the best MG characters to come along in recent years. Her social anxiety issues will help many like her also find their voice.
  3. Since Dad left, the family had to move into the vet clinic to live. Their space is separate from the animals but all of their furry (and not so furry) clients are like an extended family.
  4. Autumn’s family is Jewish but this isn’t the focus of the story. It’s just who they are and you learn about a few Jewish customs along the way.
  5. The relationship between Autumn and little sister Pickle is so special. These two would be friends for life.


Elly Swartz grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania. She studied psychology at Boston University and received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. Elly lives in Massachusetts and is happily married with two grown sons, a beagle named Lucy, and a pup named Baxter Bean. Finding Perfect, called “a clear, moving portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder” by Publishers Weekly, was her debut novel. She is also the author of Smart Cookie and Give and Take, novels for middle grade readers.

Read more about Elly on her website:


I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Please comment below!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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6 Responses to DEAR STUDENT

  1. I love the focus on the social anxiety, and it’s a clever way to get her interacting with the other student. It’s a shame the family didn’t stick together, either at home or in Ecudor.

  2. Pingback: MMGM for February 21, 2022 | Always in the Middle…

  3. I love the idea of them moving into a vet clinic! Sounds like it’s a recipe for some great moments. 🙂

  4. carolbaldwin says:

    This was a wonderful review. I’m intrigued because you said her character was portrayed so well!

  5. I can surely relate to Autumn and her fear of public speaking. Sounds like a great story about finding your voice in a new way! Thanks for sharing today!

  6. Wonderful idea for a MG novel. And so many kids will relate to the anxiety she suffers from. Thanks for telling me about this book.

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