by Barbara Dee
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 9 to 13
Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.
Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.
As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.
With finesse, this book tackles a difficult topic while sticking to a realistic middle grader's life.
Mattie is a good student, loves books and has two very good friends. She also has a crush on a guy, which seems out of her reach. When she tries to figure out whether this guy is worth her time, she runs into Gemma and soon finds herself maybe crushing on her. . .maybe. When a theater production has her playing Romeo and Juliet with Gemma, things even get more complicated.
The one thing which impresses right away with this book is the fantastic middle grade voice. The girls are eighth graders (bordering between middle grade and YA), but they hold true to the eighth grade voice through and through. The concerns, thoughts and actions fit perfectly to the age group, and the characters could be friends in any kid's class. Drama ranks high as Mattie fights against peer pressure and deals with the opinions of those around her. Luckily, she has a good set of friends, who hold to her and treat her with gentle understanding.
There's a lot of fun in these pages, and it mixes masterfully into the more serious topic. The read is light and engaging without ever weighing down. Although Gemma struggles to figure out her emotions and feelings for both a guy and a girl, the author never presses this theme too hard. It comes across as a natural predicament kids of this age group might face and doesn't go into what happens beyond. Mattie's feelings could be those of pure friendship or they might develop into something more. This innocence speaks volumes.
Much of the story rotates around Romeo and Juliet, and while this offers a lovely background to the plot, there were times that it went a bit to deep. Many middle graders are not that familiar with Shakespeare and some parts of this story might fly by readers of the intended age group.
Summed up, this is a lovely read for girls ages nine to thirteen which takes a modern day topic and handles it in a very, age appropriate manner.
And here she is. . .
arbara Dee is the author of seven middle grade novels, all published by Simon & Schuster--STAR-CROSSED, TRUTH OR DARE, THE (ALMOST) PERFECT GUIDE TO IMPERFECT BOYS, TRAUMA QUEEN, THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON, SOLVING ZOE and JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE. Her eighth middle grade novel, HALFWAY NORMAL, will be published by Aladdin/S&S December 2017. She is one of the directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival.
You can visit her on the web at www.BarbaraDeeBooks.com. Follow her on Twitter @Barbaradee2.