Review of Worse Than Weird

Worse Than Weird
by Jody J. Little
Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    265 pp.
3/20    978-06-285258-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-285253-3    $7.99

Expressing disapproval of one’s parents’ values and lifestyles is a rite of passage for many tweens, and Mac (short for MacKenna MacKensie MacLeod) is no exception. Her family lives off the grid, growing vegetables, raising chickens, and hosting a freewheeling summer festival that features (mostly) naked bike rides. Mac, in contrast, longs for a conventionally middle-class life. She’s also a coding wiz and wants to go to computer camp, but to do so she needs five hundred dollars and permission from her parents, who believe technology can destroy the soul. When she discovers that the local food trucks are sponsoring a contest with a two-thousand-dollar prize, she sees a way. Mac outlines her grievances reasonably, allowing readers to identify with her point of view. But clues begin to surface that her two BFFs and new kid Joey Marino, who pops up at the most unexpected times, have problems much more serious than parental embarrassment (one of Joey’s mothers is experiencing homelessness, for example), and readers start to see Mac’s self-absorption. Humor lightens the tone, softening the hard edges as Mac acknowledges and confronts her own flaws. Appended with an author’s note about the contemporary Portland, Oregon, setting as well as tips for acknowledging and helping homeless populations.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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