A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that sometimes scenes and characters lack background and context, but the protagonist is well-developed. Readers will anticipate the next series entry after reaching the unresolved ending.
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What's the story?
Zoe's always been friends with everyone, boys and girls. Now that she's in seventh grade, though, the rules are changing, and Zoe's torn between potential best friends and boyfriends. As much a character study as a novel, this book provides a sensitive portrayal of an average seventh grader, whose minor problems Rachel Vail treats sincerely and seriously.
Is it any good?
This unusual series is built on keenly drawn episodes and character exploration. The writing doesn't pretend to be literature, and the problems it deals with are more middle-class preteen angst than anything really serious. But Rachel Vail certainly remembers middle school, when romantic feelings both exhilarate and embarrass, and when friendships are more important than life. It's the sharply observed details that make this series.
Certain scenes accurately reflect the agonies of junior high, and others illustrate the humor in pre-teen romances. Zoe's introspective reactions to these traumas are the heart of the novel. Her gradual recognition of her romantic feelings is realistic, and her devotion to CJ is complex rather than merely pathetic. The redesign of the books -- originally published in a small format perfect for tucking into backpacks and purses, but now larger and featuring cover photos of generic models -- is unfortunate.