Summary: Where You’ve Got to Be
In Where You’ve Got to Be, Nolie feels like the odd person out amid changes. Her sister Linden, who’s only 14 months older seems to have grown up overnight, ditching the seashell necklace their grandmother gave them. And now her best friend, Jessa thinks Nolie’s nickname is too babyish and she should really go by her full name, Magnolia instead. She also wants to include a new cooler friend in their duo and give Nolie a complete makeover.
To top it off, Nolie doesn’t seem to have a “thing” that she’s good at or particularly passionate about. With all those emotions brewing, Nolie makes a poor choice to start stealing things from several people. Can she find her way?
I LOVED this story. It’s very slice-of-life as Nolie returns from a summer with her grandmother and cousins and then starts sixth grade in this changing landscape. We see how she lives in the city (NYC) with her family, squabbles with her sister and tries to find a place at home and in her friendship with her best friend. Nolie is also Jewish and the author incorporates some Jewish traditions and holidays that Nolie’s family participates in.
Nolie has a sweet relationship with her grandmother and her dad runs a shoe store that she helps out with. I loved that everything in this story feels vibrant and immersive — it felt like I was in New York again. This book shines the most in the places where Nolie is figuring out who she is and what her thing is and how she fits in with her friends. I liked that despite being confused, she feels confident enough in herself to reject the notion of getting made over by Jessa. Gertler has done a fantastic job creating a nuanced, relatable character.
Overall: Where You’ve Got to Be
Where You’ve Got to Be is an engaging, immersive, and relatable middle grade book about dealing with changing circumstances. Centering a likable Jewish tween and her struggles with an evolving friendship, this book takes readers through life in the Big Apple, making new friends, making mistakes and repairing them. Anyone who enjoys character-driven stories with an enjoyable plot will love this one!