Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Uptown Girls score music
Lane's sixth grade year isn't quite going how she planned it. When her same-age cousin Angelina unexpectedly comes to stay with Lane and her parents for a month, she totally disrupts everything at home and at school. Within days of her arrival, Angelina destroys one of Lane's favorite shirts, clashes with Lane's friends, and clicks with Lane's crush and sort-of boyfriend. Angelina decides to go by her middle name, Mint. Lane tries to give her cousin advice on how to blend in, but Mint doesn't take it. Soon, pretty much everything Mint does or says rubs Lane the wrong way.
Anyone who is or has been 11 to 13 years old can tell you a horror story or two about their social life during middle school. Some kids stress out about fitting in, while others stand out for any number of reasons, whether they want to or not. While Lane thinks Mint is eccentric, other classmates embrace Mint's exuberance. Likewise, some readers will probably think Mint's outfits are zany while others will applaud her daring-do. As in her previous middle grade stories The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter and Bessica Lefter Bites Back, author Kristen Tracy reminds us of our best and worst moments in middle school, handling both the triumphs and the mortifying moments with just the right mix of surprise and worry. For example:
Before I decided to try out for class captain, I had no idea I had this much paranoia and nervousness and judgment inside me. - Page 9
When considering the outfit her cousin selects to wear to school on her first day:
"You don't want to show up in your wolf shirt. Nobody in my school wears those."
I thought Angelina's smile would fall right off her face. But it didn't. It stayed there. "Ooh. So I'd be the first?"
That was when I suspected that teaching Angelina how to act like a normal sixth grader and make friends at Rio Chama Middle School was going to be pretty difficult. - Page 61
The scene at the end of Mint's month-long stay is very sweet. I'm not quoting it here to protect you from spoilers.
Kristen Tracy has a knack for writing offbeat characters. I love the fact that Mint prefers to march to the beat of her own drummer, and I was glad that Lane and her friends didn't attempt a full-out makeover (looks or personality-wise) on her. The ways in which the girls clash make sense; goodness knows people with different personalities can naturally clash at any age, and when you make two only children suddenly share the same bedroom and same classroom, they are bound to get on each other's nerves eventually, if not immediately. They don't full-out hate each other, though, ever. They disagree, yes, but thankfully, this isn't a story about hate; it's about displacement, and it's about being alternately comfortable and uncomfortable in your own skin and at your school and in your room. It's about friendship and family, and figuring out that it's okay to just be yourself. Kudos to Tracy for making these characters sound and act their age. This G-rated story rings true and will appeal to its intended audience.
I have included Too Cool for This School on my Middle School Must-Haves booklist.
Kudos to Linzie Hunter for creating the book's cover illustrations and hand-lettered title!
Learn more about this and other books by Kristen Tracy at her website: http://www.kristentracy.com/