Parents' Guide to

Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Moving story of early adolescent changes.

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One way or another, this is everyone's story. We change, everything changes, in the tunnel of middle school, and how we handle those changes determines who we are when we emerge at the other end. Brett has a precipitating incident, a phone prank, but the changes were coming a long time before then, and would have come no matter what. The pleasure of the story is watching her deal with them, so the novel rises or falls on her character. Fortunately, first-time novelist Maria Padian knows how to sketch a character -- strong, bold, smart-alecky Brett is a delight, and when she stands up for her principles, and for her geeky friends, readers will laugh and cheer.

But there are many other pleasures here as well. The small-town Maine setting is vivid, especially the summer shack on an island off the coast. The secondary characters are wonderful, most notably Brett's grandmother, who likes to build things like potato bazookas out of junk; her reliable slob of a boyfriend, Mr. Beady; and Brett's friend Michael, an appealing geek in the gifted class. Each of them is facing changes of his own, and, in moments both comic and tragic, each rises nobly to the occasion in ways that deepen and enrich them -- and the reader.

Book Details

  • Author: Maria Padian
  • Genre: Family Life
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Publication date: March 1, 2008
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 12
  • Number of pages: 276
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

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