Flor’s parents’ mattress store is struggling this summer, and her parents are fighting more than ever. The summer seems to get brighter when she gets a chance to be in their town’s local honey pageant with her frenemy (former friend turned bitter enemy) Candice. The girls’ friendship was ruined when Flor won the pageant in third grade, and Candice (the runner-up) suggested that she only won because she was half-Indian. Can the girls make it work now? And with Flor make it through the summer with her family intact?
When Luz has to stop playing soccer after tearing her ACL, she feels a bit lost. No longer a soccer superstar, who is she? Worse still, her dad, who used to share her love for the sport, seems on eggshells around her. Soon though, Luz stumbles upon a new passion: coding, assisted by Mr. Mac, their elderly neighbor next door. But just as she’s finding her feet, a new family member, Solana, comes to stay with them. Solana’s visit upends Liz’s identity even more. But it may just bring more light into her life than she’s ever expected.
There’s one thing to note about this summer’s theater show: it will be NOT starring Zadie Louise. Because of tight financial circumstances, Zadie’s summer activities have all been replaced with helping out (or at least trying not to cause a disaster) in the theater where her mom directs plays. Unlike her older sister, Zadie is not interested in acting and would rather hang out with the lights and tech crew, but it seems that she ruins everything she touches! Soon everyone is frustrated with her — and on top of that, she finds out her grandma who lives in their basement is moving! Can Zadie find her place this summer?
A Song Called Home is YA author Sara Zarr’s middle grade debut. It follows Lou as her mom remarries a man named Steve. Lou and her sister Casey have to move from the city to the suburbs to live with Steve, leaving behind their old schools and Lou’s best friend Beth Tsai. Forming this new family is hard on Lou and Casey for different reasons. Lou feels like she’s leaving their alcoholic father behind and Casey worries that Steve is being too nice and the “real Steve” will show up soon. On the day before their move (which is also Lou’s birthday) Lou finds a guitar right outside their old apartment addressed to her. Convinced it’s from her dad, she starts learning to play guitar to maintain that bond with him. As they all navigate the blending of their families, Lou learns about herself and what family truly means.
This book follows 12-year-old Ariel whose life is upturned when her big sister (the best of them all), Leah, elopes with her Indian-American boyfriend after the Loving vs. Virginia ruling. Ariel’s parents are upset, Ariel is struggling with being able to write well at school, and she can’t stop thinking about her sister and everything happening in the world.
When Madrigal’s (Maddie) older brother, Strum, goes missing from his college campus, her musical family loses its harmony. Her French mother is distraught — broken for the first time as Maddie has never seen her. Her piano playing father doesn’t even touch his instrument, and her fiery sister retreats into a rebellious funk, drinking and partying, even though she’s only 16. Maddie tries to keep everything together: focus on her oboe lessons and compulsive counting that calms her mind. But when her parents leave to look for Strum and Maddie is left with Aria, things seem hopeless.
Kitty Wentworth is grappling with the grief of losing her mother to lung cancer (even though she never smoked). Her older sister Imogen seems to be coping better and her dad just seems a bit lost. Thankfully, they have their grandmother and a baking enthusiast neighbor Ms. Allison to keep their moods up and care for them. Ms. Allison is also gearing up to start filming The Great British Bake-Off as a contestant. But Kitty’s world shifts when her father gets a work opportunity in New York and wants her and Imogen to move.
Thirteen-year-old Olivia is excited about going on a road trip back to California with her sister and their uncle and aunt. Their family moved to Tennessee from California three years ago, and the girls had buried a time capsule before their move. Olivia’s big sister Ruth is now 16 and clinically depressed. She has good and bad days and is on medication to manage her depression. Olivia feels responsible for Ruth’s happiness and has a plan to recover their time capsule, while doing a photo project during their trip to remind Ruth of good times and make her just a little happier. But she soon finds out that with mental illness, it’s not always so simple.
Krista is an almost-12-year-old living in Vancouver, Canada. Her best friend since kindergarten is a redheaded boy named Jason. Jason enjoys Korean food, even kimchi, which has a strong smell. Although both of her parents are Korean, Krista’s mom does not cook a lot of Korean food. Her paternal grandmother though, always makes and brings them Korean food. Sadly, however, it seems that Grandma prefers Krista’s teen sister Tori to her. Tori is interested in fashion and makeup, and isn’t the biggest fan of Korean food. Krista on the other hand, prefers her worn jeans and sneakers, which Grandma does not like.
Rigel has 365 days to Alaska. After her parents split up, her mom moves Rigel and her two sisters from their Alaskan bush living to Connecticut where their grandmother lives. At first, Rigel hates it in the Connecticut suburbs, even though her sisters seem to be having a better time. They’re excited about the comforts of running water, a television, and malls, among other things. But Rigel yearns for the quiet of bush life, wants to return to the simplicity of hunting animals for food, and being with her dad. So her father promises her that in a year, when he’s earned a bit of money from working, Rigel can return to live with him in Alaska.
Winnie and Ingrid Lopez are the first Latino First Daughters and their Papa’s tenure is just about done. The President-Elect (and first Female African-American President) has twin daughters Skylar and Zora. In a never-before-done move-in style, the Lopez’s allow the Williams family to move in with them seven weeks ahead of inauguration.
The Lopez girls have mixed feelings about leaving the White House after spending most of their childhood there. Twelve-year-old Winnie is eager to get away from under the public gaze and the pressure to be perfect, whereas 11-year-old Ingrid is sad to be leaving everything behind. Both girls decide to play some good-natured pranks on the Williams girls who are nervous about stepping into their new roles as First Daughters. When the Williams girls retaliate, it becomes a full-on prank war as both sets of daughters try to outdo each other.
Serena Says was high on my list of anticipated middle-grade books this fall. It was also the first time I read anything by author Tanita Davis. Serena’s best friend JC has to take a break from school for a kidney transplant, and Serena is looking forward to visiting her in the hospital after the surgery, as school ambassador. But when she catches a cold, her hopes are deflated as another girl Lani is sent instead of her. After the visit, Serena notices that Lani and JC have developed a friendship, and her relationship with JC seems to have diminished in intensity.
Throughout the story, Serena works on finding a good place in her friendship with JC while balancing working with Lani, Harrison, Cameron, and the other kids in her school and senate.