Monday, April 30, 2018

Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

Emily is excited to be entering middle school and even more excited about the release of the newest book in her favorite series about a unicorn detective.  Emily and her best friend Hazel have always dressed up and attended the book launch parties but this year when Hazel shows up, she is talking about her new friends on the field hockey team and doesn't even have a costume ready.  As the year begins Emily tries to be open-minded and works on joining Hazel's new group but often feels excluded.  In an effort to feel more a part of things, Emily "borrows" her mom's credit card and orders a series of CDs about creating a new you that she heard about on an infomercial.  On top of her problems at school, Emily is worried about her beloved older sister who is now in a facility getting treatment for anorexia while her father is setting up his new house with his girlfriend.  

This is one of those books that lures you in with a fairly typical beginning of middle school jitters and adjustments and friends outgrowing each other, but then begins to sneak in more serious subjects.  Hazel and Emily's parting of the ways ends more viciously - but also more realistically - than most books like this, although there is some reconciliation toward the end.  I liked Emily's attempts to reinvent herself and the steps provided by her CDs which I expected to be a scam but instead gave some sound steps to getting in touch with yourself and developing confidence.  I also liked the portrayal of Em's sister and her recovery from anorexia which is not a magic cure nor is it easy for the family.  They all make mistakes and Em, in particular, carries a lot of resentment.  It all meshes nicely to result in a strong book that is not as juvenile and the cover might have you believe.

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