Squad Goals (Hearts & Crafts #1) is the first in a new middle grade series about Mackenzie Miller, a new seventh-grader who calls herself a “maker.” Mackenzie loves projects especially when they involve crafting artsy things or planning things. After her parents’ divorce and her father’s remarriage, it’s just Kenzie and her mom and Kenzie wants her mom to find a boyfriend. Last year, her BFFs also dumped her and Kenzie is convinced she can try to win them back this year while working hard to make new friends. In the spirit of making, she quickly finds herself embroiled in a fundraiser to help get some of the Band kids in her school (she’s also in Band) new instruments. But can Mackenzie balance it all?
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid follows new sixth grader, Max. Max is fat and on his first day of school becomes a target for school bully and eighth-grader Johnny “Pro.” Max’s mom is a single mother and his only friend Luca is poor and wears worn hand-me-downs. When Max gets fed up with being bullied, he decides to write to imprisoned supervillain, Master Plan for advice and help. Master Plan comes up with a step-by-step guide to stop Max from being bullied and elevate his social status — maybe even helping him get closer to the girl he likes. But when Max’s fortune starts to change, it threatens his friendship with Luca. Worse still, he realizes that supervillains rarely offer help without needing something in exchange.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance follows Maizy and her mother who return to Last Chance, Minnesota when Maizy’s grandfather becomes ill. We learn that Maizy’s mom had her with the help of a sperm donor and seems to have taken a less traditional, unexpected career route since her parents expected her to take over their historical Chinese restaurant The Golden Palace. However, Maizy’s grandparents love her, and Maizy quickly bonds with them, especially her grandfather. One day, she sees pictures of several Chinese young men and when she asks her grandfather about them, he begins to tell her a sprawling story about their family’s history in Last Chance, which is interwoven with love, racism, and community. At the same time, The Golden Palace experiences a hate crime and Maizy is shocked to discover who the perpetrator is.
In Nikki on the Line, 13-year-old Nikki Doyle feels one step closer to her pro basketball player dreams when she gets signed on to an elite-level club team. But her mother doesn’t have enough to pay for the club, and so Nikki offers to watch her little brother after school so they can save on daycare money. Unfortunately, playing for the club isn’t nearly as easy as Nikki expects.
Birdie Loggerman’s life becomes complicated when she finds half a million dollars — cash — in an abandoned house. Her mom is a cleaner currently out of work because Birdie’s damaged property in her last client’s house. And Birdie’s best friend’s mother views her with disdain because she’s one of the poorer kids living in their highbrow area. So when Birdie finds all this money (she’s been praying for, no less), should she keep it? Or does finders, keepers not apply in this case?
Izumi Tanaka finds out that her father (the one her single mother never wants to talk about) is the crowned Prince of Japan. Immediately, she’s whisked away to Japan to meet her father and the family she didn’t know she had. Of course, this means she had to leave close to the end of her senior year in high school, hoping to return in time for graduation. When she gets to Japan, however, she’s met with a new (handsome) bodyguard, Akio; cunning cousins, and a whole lot of royal etiquette to learn. Will she survive and finally find belonging? Or will she crash and burn?
Vera feels like the outsider with her American friends who are more well-to-do and have slumber parties in their larger houses.
When she tries and fails to fit in repeatedly, she decides that she will go to summer camp just as her friends do. This way, she’ll have something to say when they’re all sharing summer plans and experiences. However, the Russian Scout camp she and her brother are sent to is not at all like the American summer camp she envisioned. Gross toilets, snobby older kids, a lot of reading in Russian and tough outdoor conditions teach Vera much about life and friendships.
Georgia’s father was a renowned fine artist in New York before he died from cancer while only in his fifties. It’s been two years since he died, and her mom seems to be absorbed in managing his estate and trying to keep the family afloat financially. Georgia is still deeply grieving and dealing with several complicated feelings about her father, the world’s view of him, and her friendship with her oldest and best friend, Theo, who was also close to her dad.
Maryam (Mimi) has a thousand questions for her dad who left her and her mother when she was younger, but her mom seems to have moved on and won’t talk to her about him. Her mother Samia is an artist and money is often tight for both of them in the city. One summer, Mimi’s mom decides they will take a trip to Pakisan (!) where Mimi’s grandparents live. Imagine how thrilled she is to learn that her dad (globe-trotting journalist) is also currently in Karachi.
Almost American Girl is Robin Ha’s graphic memoir detailing her move from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama. Robin is 14 when she and her mother leave for one of their regular visits to the US. Except, this time it’s not Hawaii or any other vacation hotspot — it’s Alabama. Robin’s mother has been encouraging her to learn English like she has been doing, but Robin is uninterested, preferring to enjoy her Korean comics and spending time with her friends buying stationery and Korean street food.
When they arrive in Huntsville, Robin realizes that her mother is there to visit a man she has been corresponding with. His family welcomes them, but Robin feels out of place since she can neither speak nor understand English. She dreams of returning to Korea when the vacation is over. However, Robin is in for a shocker as her mom announces that she’s marrying this man, and she and Robin are staying put in America. Her whole life changes forever, as she struggles to assimilate, while handling the ups and downs in her mother’s relationship.
In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin.
Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back.