Review of Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone
by Tae Keller
Intermediate, Middle School    Random    288 pp.    g
4/22    978-0-593-31052-6    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-31053-3    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-31054-0    $10.99

Twelve-year-old narrator Mallory is distressed to learn that her neighbor and sometime-friend Jennifer Chan has disappeared. Having recently moved to town (deemed “Nowhereville” Florida by Mallory), Jennifer—who is Chinese American; lives with a young, single mother; and wholeheartedly believes in aliens—doesn’t fit in at snobby, homogenous Gibbons Academy. Socially insecure Mallory (whose own mom is “half Korean”) and her two mean-girl besties had bullied Jennifer. Alternating between “Now” and “Then,” and with heavy foreshadowing of something known as “the Incident,” Mallory slowly, guiltily, reveals what happened, and how she’s determined to make things right. Occasional interspersed journal entries from “Jennifer Chan’s Guide to the Universe” provide the missing girl’s thoughts on family, friendship, and the inevitability of extraterrestrial existence, plus how to make contact; the story’s climax leaves room for interpretation regarding her success. Keller (Newbery Medalist for When You Trap a Tiger) writes with uncommon compassion for all of her characters—even the cruel-seeming ones—­addressing such issues as peer pressure, individuality, identity, and microaggressions from a variety of perspectives. A ­heartfelt and hopeful appended note provides further details about the author’s ­motivation and methodology.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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