Summary: Elfie Unperfect
Elfie Unperfect is Kristin Mahoney’s latest middle grade offering. I enjoyed her debut, Annie’s Life in Lists — a midddle grade book written entirely in list format — and I was looking forward to this book.
Elfie Oster is ready to leave Cottonwood Elementary. She doesn’t have any friends at the school and she’s tired of having to do group projects all by herself. It doesn’t help that her super popular cousin, Jenna, whom everyone likes, is also in Cottonwood — and also not Elfie’s friend. Thankfully, she’s been admitted at Hampshire Academy, a swanky private school where she knows everything will be different. Unfortunately, after a misunderstanding, Elfie is swiftly expelled from Hampshire and has to return to Cottonwood.
As a fellow perfectionist, I related HARD to Elfie’s struggles, and yet it was tough to see how perfectionism impacts our relationships and even the perfectionist themselves. Elfie likes to follow the rules –and enforce them on others — and that leads to her getting in a sticky situation at her new school. Her perfectionism also strains her relationship with her cousin, Jenna — who is far more easygoing than Elfie is, but also dealing with her own challenges.
Something I really liked about this story was how supportive Elfie’s parents were throughout the entire rollercoaster of the year. They’re not blind to her issues, but they also always manage to support her while being honest with her. Elfie also gets an adorable kitten who was a huge dose of comedy and cuteness. Somehow, this book is also hilarious. I either laughed or chuckled at least once in every chapter.
Rhoda, Elfie’s babysitter is diagnosed with a serious illness that becomes an additional source of worry for Elfie, but the author shows how parents can help younger kids manage the feelings that come with a loved one getting ill. Finally, Elfie’s egg group challenge and her slow character growth in this story make her a character to root for.
Overall: Elfie Unperfect
Elfie Unperfect is a realistic, poignant, and funny middle grade book about letting go of perfectionism and embracing the messiness of real life. With supportive family dynamics, musings on being an only child, and a flawed protagonist who sometimes takes herself too seriously, this book makes for an insightful and enjoyable read. This is one of those rare middle grade books that would work for both younger and somewhat older audiences.