Review of Middletown

by Sarah Moon
Middle School    Levine Querido    288 pp.    g
4/21    978-1-64614-042-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64614-107-4    $9.99

Thirteen-year-old Eli and her big sister Anna, seventeen, are used to fending for themselves and covering up their mother’s excessive drinking; they’ve been doing it for years. However, things come to a head when Mom is charged with a DUI and is sent to rehab for ninety days. The girls temporarily evade social services by having Anna impersonate their aunt Lisa, but after learning that Mom lost her job, and without a paycheck forthcoming, they have to reach out to estranged or unknown family members (the girls have different fathers). Armed with Mom’s old address book, they set off on a road trip and wind up having to face some unsettling truths about themselves and their decision-making, in a complicated and often unfair world. Eli, who identifies as gay, is bright, funny, and resilient, always willing to forgive her mom’s erratic behavior. Anna is more prickly and angry than Eli, but largely out of guilt at not being able to protect her sister. The book’s tone is sharp and insightful but never judgmental, and the characters’ voices are distinctive and realistic. Moon offers up powerful and positive life lessons wrapped in an engaging, tender, and satisfying story.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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