Summary: The Kate in Between
In The Kate in Between, Kate McAllister’s life is in need of a refresh. Her mother has left town chasing the highest tier in an MLM scheme and Kate is living with her cop dad and getting driven to school in his police car. When a bunch of popular kids seems to welcome Kate into their clique, she is torn about ditching her longtime best friend, Haddie. Haddie marches to the beat of her own drum and could care less about being accepted. Things get complicated, however, when Kate is a passive participant in a bullying incident that leads to Haddie sinking on thin ice. Then, Kate is captured on camera saving Haddie, and the video goes viral.
While news outlets hail “Kate the Great” as a shining example for tweens who should not be bullying other kids, Kate continues to oscillate between craving acceptance from the popular kids and trying to keep her friendship with Haddie, all the while maintaining her public image by appearing in newspapers and on popular YouTube channels. But how long can she keep up the charade? And, is Kate great? Or is she a bad person?
If you follow me on any social media platform, you would know how much I adore this story. The protagonist will tell you herself on the first page that she is not the hero and in some ways, it is true. But the charm of this book for me is that we don’t have to be perfect to be the hero of our story, and rarely are people black or white anyway.
Kate is a tween trying to find her place, she plays basketball but not too well and she really does love her best friend, Haddie. But people change and friendships evolve and sometimes, kids haven’t quite figured out how to change lanes without hurting other people. I liked Haddie and she responds to the entire situation in a way I wouldn’t have predicted.
I also liked Kate’s interactions with her father, her basketball team and reading her internal monologue as she tries to figure out if she really fits in with the popular kids and who she really is. Another interesting element of this book is Kate’s mother who is in this cosmetic MLM scheme and seeing the way it consumes her life and disrupts her child’s life. Kate’s parents are also unique in that they had her right after high school (something I don’t see often in middle grade literature).
Finally, this book explores social media and going viral. Especially in a world with Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, and the likes, more and more tweens are getting overexposed on social media. Bullying is an excellent adjacent theme and this book addresses both timely themes.
Overall: The Kate in Between
The Kate in Between is a timely, complex, and engaging middle grade book about identity, popularity, bullying culture, and going viral. This unique middle grade book highlights the nuances of being human and shows that no one falls neatly into “good” or “bad” boxes. With a messy, but likable and relatable protagonist, this book will prove to be a true conversation starter and resonate with middle school kids and adults alike.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Read an excerpt of The Kate in Between here.