Well, That Was Awkward
by Rachel Vail
Middle School Viking 314 pp.
2/17 978-0-670-01308-1 $16.99 g
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well — Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes another…and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar — kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school.
From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.