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Review of The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James
by Ashley Herring Blake
Intermediate, Middle School    Little, Brown    373 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-316-51553-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-51550-4    $9.99

After receiving a heart transplant, twelve-year-old Sunny decides it’s time for a “New Life” with specific components — including finding a boy to kiss and finding a new best friend (her old one having spilled Sunny’s secret: “she thinks about kissing boys and girls”). A girl named Quinn, who’s visiting for the summer, is willing to fill in as best friend and also to help Sunny find a kissing partner — an endeavor that raises more questions for Sunny than it answers. Meanwhile, her long-absent mother is back in her life; reactions to her mom’s reappearance from headstrong Sunny and her protective guardian Kate are particularly well drawn. Despite many plot threads, the novel doesn’t feel overcrowded, between the measured revelations of backstory and the emotion-infused first-person narration that makes everything easy to follow. As in Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (rev. 5/18), Blake balances her portrayal of major upheaval in a preteen’s life with her character’s private questions of identity, which feel major as well.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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