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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers

PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL by Nikki Grimes

Planet Middle School is told in free verse. It is narrated in the authentic middle school voice of Joylin. She navigates her feelings about boys, her changing body, her first crush and the dangers of transforming yourself into someone you are not instead of staying true to who you are.

She also struggles in the very real and painful way we all do in adolescence (and at various times throughout our lives) with the idea that everything is changing—out of our control—and we are required to adapt and change with it.  How do you do this and maintain your happiness–or your sanity?

She learns that these changes are not always bad.  We make mistakes as we tiptoe through the minefields of change and we learn from them.  Joylin discovers the difference between embracing the natural changes that are part of all our lives, the ones we choose to make for ourselves, and the ones we sometimes choose to make for others.  And she learns that the important things like love and true friendship will always be there.

A book that may seem deceptively simple at first glance, Planet Middle School is an extraordinarily genuine journey through the years when we all begin to discover and accept who we are and who we want to be.  I highly recommend this book–especially for middle school girls.  There are very few readers out there who will not see at least flashes of themselves in Joylin.

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