A Good Kind of Trouble
Shayla and her two best friends Julia and Isabella are starting seventh grade, but they don't have a single class together. As the year begins, Julia begins to pull away from her two friends, trying new things and dressing in new ways. Isabella is a little shyer and won't confront her, but Shayla is frustrated and doesn't know how to talk about it. She's frustrated about a lot of things, actually: the boy she likes seems to like Isabella better, a boy she doesn't like seems to like her, and her older sister is an activist for Black Lives Matter. Shayla just wants everything to be normal and to stay out of trouble.
There are a lot of plot points going on in this book, and Shayla makes mistakes as she navigates friendships. That realism is a selling point of the book, though - often middle grade books will have a perfect character or a perfect friend who shows the protagonist how to act - here, everyone is trying their best and sometimes it's a mess.
This book addresses racial injustice and activism with regard to Black Lives Matter, which is not a common topic in middle grade books. Showing different types of protests and Shayla's decision about whether or not to participate is important, realistic, and a strength of the book. This story examines the potential personal cost of speaking out with the collective societal and individual costs for not taking action.
"Does she ever get embarrassed wearing her armband? Doesn't she worry people will think she's trying to start some trouble?"
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