Summary: Five Things About Ava Andrews
Ava Andrews is a deeply anxious middle-grader whose best friend (and mouthpiece), Zelia has moved to a different city, leaving her quite unmoored. Ava also has a rare heart condition. In Five Things About Ava Andrews, she learns to build a social life and a voice through therapy, improv classes, her dad’s etiquette class, and activism against her neighborhood’s gentrification. She also has to work on a school project with a classmate who seems to dislike her and the fact the “gets away” with not doing some class activities.
Two things I loved about this book? The way the author handles anxiety (and therapy) and the way Ava handles her friendship with Zelia. Middle-grade books about anxiety (but not necessarily OCD) are not as common as I would like. Ava’s anxiety isn’t “obvious,” mostly because she just clams up and people assume she’s snooty. Still, her anxiety is as real as her heart’s condition. She worries more than normal about how to express her thoughts and what people think about her. And often, she overthinks the outcome of every scenario, often dreaming up the worst case scenario. As someone with a degree of anxiety, it felt good to read about Ava’s struggles and feel seen.
Ava also has major friendship issues when Zelia moves away — mostly because Zelia can’t handle that socially-anxious Ava takes her place in improv AND wins her friend’s affections too. As she works through the issues, Ava’s internal dialogue is insightful and she is compassionate, even when she’s hurting. The relationships in this book are well written — from Ava’s relationships with her brothers and her stressful interactions with her project partner. I also enjoyed reading about Ava’s Japanese grandfather and her Nana Linda.
A major portion of this book is activism as Ava and her friends try to save their neighborhood from gentrification. I liked the way the author made the concept of gentrification more accessible.
I found the improv “demonstration” scene and the outcome a bit contrived. However, I recognize that the author wants to show kids that their voices matter. I also felt like the activism sections of this book were the least interesting and couldn’t wait to get back to reading about Ava’s challenges in class or at home!
Overall: Five Things About Ava Andrews
Five Things About Ava Andrews is a sweet and true-to-life portrayal of anxiety in middle-grade literature. With a sharp protagonist and realistic family members, this book is perfect for those who like books about siblings. Ava Andrews reminds readers that we all have different struggles and sometimes all we need to do is look beyond ourselves. If you’re looking for a therapy-positive middle-grade book about anxiety, a middle-grade book featuring improv (like Jessica Kim‘s Stand Up, Yumi Chung does with comedy) or one with activism — then you’ll love this book!
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More Middle-Grade Books Like Five Things About Ava Andrews
- Out of Place by Jennifer Blecher (Protagonist’s best friend moves away)
- How to Make Friends With the Sea by Tanya Guerrero (Protagonist with anxiety)
- Center of Gravity by Shaunta Grimes (Grieving protagonist with anxiety)
- Not If I Can Help It (Side character with anxiety; Protagonist has SPD)
Have you read this book or Dilloway’s debut middle-grade book, Summer of a Thousand Pies? I think I already have it on my Kindle! I hope I can get to it very soon! What are your favorite middle-grade books about anxiety or mental illness?