Author: Lauren Myracle
Genre: MG Commercial Fiction
Summary: This laugh-out-loud trilogy follows Winnie Perry through her eleventh birthday (in fifth grade) up through the end of her thirteenth year (3/4 of the way through eighth grade). We lose friends, gain new friends, learn about bras, periods, families, and boys, and show a little love to a lizard.
"The thing about birthdays is that everything should go just right, at least on that one day." -Eleven
"The thing about birthdays, especially if you just that very day turned twelve, is that you should make a point of trying to look good." -Twelve
"The thing about birthdays, especially if you just that very day turned thirteen, is that you should know in your heart of hearts that the world is your oyster." -Thirteen
Review: I decided to review all of these books together because, well, I read them all together. I read the first one on a whim, a decision to develop myself "professionally" (because I dream that, when I'm finished with my MLS program, that I'll be a kick-butt YA and children's services librarian in a public library who will help reluctant readers find the book that will help them turn the corner and develop a lifelong love of reading). I read plenty of YA and had recently started to dip my toes into MG (at the urging of my nephew), but needed a broader scope. I didn't intend to like these books because I'm not in their target audience.
But you know the crazy thing?
Even though I was reading them with, "I wonder what fifth- or sixth-grade girl I can recommend these to," in my mind, I loved them. Not for someone else, but for myself. They were really funny. I laughed out loud. And the lessons learned were poignant and spot-on for what girls that age struggle with (some of which are things that girls of all ages--even those of us who are well beyond the middle grades--struggle with). The voice of Winnie is so honest; she tries to be good, but she isn't always successful. She's just real.
And that tends to be the way that Myracle writes all of her characters in all of her books. She's just really good at creating interesting characters. You might not absolutely love every single character in all of her books (I didn't love all the characters in this series), but you can always find someone you connect with. And that's what reading is all about--watching somebody else make life's mistakes in one way or another and learning from them.
I have recommended this book to a very nice young sixth grader who I interact with in a volunteering role that I have and, after I explained the conflict of the first book, she was hooked. She can't wait for me to check with her mom to make sure it's okay for her to read these. And that's what's so great about Myracle: she writes books that you want to read.
So, in summary, Myracle's positive qualities are:
1. She writes characters that you can connect with.
2. She writes books that you want to read.
3. She's funny (which I might not have explicitly said, but is still true).
Let me leave you with this snippet from a scene where Winnie (age 13) has gone to ask her older sister, Sandra (17), and her sister's boyfriend, Bo (also 17), for advice on kissing (page 55):
"I was hoping we could discuss kissing," [I said].And, since we're on the topic of funny (and a little bit sweet) things that happen in the book, let me share this, which isn't truly a spoiler (page 63):
"Oh, good God," Sandra said. "Winnie."
I blushed, but the thing about Sandra and Bo (unless Sandra was in one of her moods) was that I could blush around them and still keep going.
"I just don't understand what you do with your tongues," I said.
"How many tongues do you have?" Bo asked.
"Ha ha," I said. "One that belongs to me, one that belongs to someone else."
Lars looked at me. His face was right there, inches from mine, and I knew this was it: the moment of the first kiss.You'll have to read the books to see how "the kiss" turns out.
He leaned in. I giggled and drew back. My breathing grew shallow, and my heart drummed against my ribs, more out of nervousness than anticipation. Extreme, horrible, freak-out nervousness, the kind I occasionally experienced before having to give an oral presentation or introduce myself to a crowd of strangers.
Lars tried again. I turned my head from his. I didn't mean to--I so didn't mean to--but it was too much, being in the actual moment and thinking, Oh, god, lips. His. Mine. Touching!
An anxious laugh made a very strange sound coming out of me. I could feel my smile go rubbery.
He learned in. I pulled back. He leaned in further. I did a bob and a duck maneuver. It was bad. Bad, bad, bad. And the worst part of it all was the doubt creeping into his eyes. He thought I didn't want him to kiss me, but I did!
"Winnie?" he said.
"Yes?" I squeaked. My cheeks burned.
So, to make this long post a little bit longer, I only intended to read the first book, but whizzed right through it and promptly went back out and picked up the next two and buzzed right through them. I was actually quite disappointed to find out this was only a trilogy. I want more Winnie Perry.
Recommendation: I recommend that you read absolutely everything by Lauren Myracle. Young Adult, Middle Grade, doesn't matter, just read it. (And add E. Lockhart while you're at it for good measure.)