Review of Ellen Outside the Lines

Ellen Outside the Lines Ellen Outside the Lines
by A. J. Sass
Intermediate, Middle School    Little, Brown    336 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-7595-5627-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7595-5630-0    $9.99

The incoming eighth-grade Spanish students from Ellen Katz’s Georgia prep school take a summer field trip to Barcelona. Ellen, who is autistic, is sometimes overwhelmed by the surprises the trip presents, starting with an unexpected team scavenger hunt. Several parts of the experience lead Ellen to realize that identity isn’t always clear-cut, from her father’s choice to eat non-kosher food while he’s chaperoning to a teammate’s use of they/them pronouns. Ellen is a satisfyingly well-rounded character with complex relationships who makes mistakes and learns from them. She figures things out about herself, including trying out an adjustment to her—or maybe sometimes their—own pronouns. The presence of multiple queer characters allows for a variety of feelings toward what to share and how big a deal being queer is or isn’t. The amazing-to-imagine (if unlikely for most readers) school trip provides an appealing backdrop, but it is the story’s interpersonal aspects that are especially welcome.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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