Olive has plenty of friends, but not one best friend. When the fifth grade teacher announces the school will be having a variety show, Olive's friends fall into natural groups, and she feels left out. She doesn't want to ask to be included - she wants them to want to include her. What do you do when you feel like you don't click anywhere?
This is a graphic novel, and the author's first book.
This is not a page-turning, suspense tale, but its issues are perfect for upper elementary. How you define yourself in context of your friends and family is a central question of those years. There aren't any mean girls or bullying (which removes potential drama, but is also a little refreshing), but sometimes friends come together or drift apart, and that re-alignment is examined here.
Olive's family life isn't deliberately called out, but she has a pretty good relationship with her younger brother (which is rather rare in light middle grade fiction), and she lives with her mom, who is depicted as being slightly overweight, without it ever being mentioned. Her aunt is also a major presence in their family life, but her father's absence is never discussed. When Olive spends the night at her aunt's apartment, she sleeps on the couch. I found these details great for representing families that don't all have gigantic houses or perfect body types, because this life is normal for a swath of readers, even though poverty and weight are not related to the story.
This book didn't fall into the "must-read" zone for me, but my students love realistic fiction graphic novels, and our class library definitely can use more. This will be a title my students will be glad to find.
"I'm not going to invite myself. If they wanted me, they would have asked."
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