The Meaning of Maggie is a great novel. Full of heart, drama, and humor, this story is fictionalized memoir of an eleven year old girl struggling with middle school, being the middle child and helping her family in the middle of big changes because of the dad's illness.
The author uses some really cool storytelling techniques like a non-linear plot and footnotes. In fact, because of the footnotes, I'd recommend reading this book on an e-reader if you can. It speeds up the process of checking the footnote, especially for kids.
By far the most compelling reason to read this book is the character of Maggie. She's smart, funny, kind and loving. She LOVES to learn.
As a kid growing up with a sick mom, I could totally relate to Maggie's fear of her father's illness.
As far as inappropriate messages in the book, I'd definitely agree there were a few things that I might leave out if I was reading this book aloud to my class, which is why I said 12 and up. But if you read the book before your kids ---as all teacher do with read alouds, you can just stick a post-it note on the pages that have the references you don't want to include. Here's what they are:
*Maggie's parents drink Rum and Cokes. Maggie's dad sometimes asks her to bring him a drink. Maggie refers to the rum as "bad stuff"----hey, I told you she's smart.
*Maggie's dad's photo album has a picture of a "funny looking plant". No direct reference.
*Maggie's parents have friends over. They smell funny in the morning.
*Maggie's sister is found sleeping on the couch with her boyfriend. They are literally sleeping. No reference to sexual activity. However, there's lots of talk about making out. Ewwww.
*Maggie's dad makes a joke about wanting medical marijuana to his doctor.
Sure, there are a few references in the book that some kids won't understand. But as a whole, The Meaning of Maggie is by far my favorite of all the books nominated for the Maine Student Book Award this year. Maggie stole my heart----because she's ME. The little girl growing up in the late 80s who loved to learn, who loved to eat, who had a parent with a really scary illness----it reads like my own life story.
I think The Meaning of Maggie will steal your heart---and be careful because she will also steal your Zebra Cakes.