Review of The Order of Things

The Order of Things The Order of Things
by Kaija Langley
Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin    288 pp.
6/23    9780593530900    $17.99
e-book ed.  9780593530917    $10.99

In this compelling verse novel set in Boston, African American tweens Zee and April are best friends. Each lives with their single parent in apartments across the hall from each other—narrator April with Chantelle, her army-veteran mom who works nights for UPS; and Zee with his dad, Papa Zee, a postal carrier. The four function like a family. A virtuoso violinist, Zee now attends an arts school, leaving April to face sixth grade without him. Though passionate about drumming, April lacks Zee’s confidence and tenacity. After Zee faints at school, he refuses to rest, wanting desperately to perform the orchestra solo. When April finds out that Zee is secretly practicing, she agrees not to tell his dad. Meanwhile, April’s mother has fallen in love with a female coworker, who is becoming more a part of their lives, despite April’s resistance. A tragedy changes everything, and April feels responsible. Her grief interferes with her drumming, but music also helps her recover. Langley takes readers on an emotionally turbulent ride while highlighting characters’ strengths and flaws. The protagonists’ love of music breathes life into the plot and propels the action forward. An honest and poignant portrayal of loss and grief that affirms that time and a supportive community contribute to healing.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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