What if you had a mean-girl problem, and you were crying in the bathroom about it, and you told someone, someone you didn't know very well? Would it be possible that that person would actually do something to fix it? What if the fixing made everything worse? Colleen is the bathroom-cryer in question, and she's sure Laura is trying to steal her best friend, Katilin. Emma-Jean is the person she doesn't know very well, and Emma-Jean has an impressive attention to detail. Although she tends to avoid drama and school peers, she does decide to get involved with Colleen's problem. And Vikram's. And Will Keeler's. But if Laura finds out who "fixed" things, the problem is going to get a lot worse.
This is such an adorable book, and not just because I love quirky characters (although that's part of it). Emma-Jean is never labeled as being gifted or having any sensory or social issues, although these things are evident in the way she is shown to interact with others. Although some of her peers call her "weird," she is so relatable, and the fact that she is trying to help others makes you cheer for her. She's sort of a combination of Anne of Avonlea and Willow from Counting By 7s - optimistic even when it misfires, but also calm and capable in ways that others are not. I was surprised by how much I liked Colleen, too. The book alternates viewpoints between Emma-Jean and Colleen, who is a little more worried than most about being accepted by the "in" crowd. Colleen is still a kind person and generally positive, even if she gets sucked into the middle school drama.
Although the characters are in seventh grade, this is probably accessible for advanced fourth grade readers. It includes some subterfuge and middle school drama that may be more appropriate for fifth or sixth graders, but it's a short read with a fresh voice and memorable characters.
"Emma-Jean did not believe that Laura Gilroy possessed either the reasoning skills or the intellectual focus to trace the letter back to its source.
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