You Go First

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
You Go First Book Poster Image
Sweet, hopeful tale of friendship, family, and perseverance.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Packed with educational facts about science, animals, math, spelling, poetry, presidential history, recycling, and more. Each of Charlotte's chapters begin with a piece of trivia that relates to her story. A vocabulary word is defined at the start of each day.

Positive Messages

Courage, kindness, perseverance are important themes. Find the beauty in everyday situations. Spend as much time with your parents as you can and appreciate your family traditions. It's up to you to decide how to handle life's challenges and obstacles. It may take time, but you'll connect with people who make you feel like you belong and form true friendships. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlotte and Ben are incredibly smart kids interested in a variety of subjects including science, history, spelling, and more. Charlotte doesn't believe in changing herself for others, thinks you should be happy with who you are. Ben's perseverance, courage during school election will inspire kids to never give up. Magda and Wyatt are great friends to Charlotte and Ben. They show the main characters that friendships can be found in unlikely places.


Ben is bullied at school. He gets tripped and pushed, and he wets his pants when the bullies purposely startle him at the beginning of his speech. 


Girls talk about their crushes.


Mild insults include "idiot," "dork," "nerd," and "loser." Kids insult a girl at school named Magda by calling her "Mad Magda."


Brands and pop culture mentions include Scrabble, Old Navy, Vans, Us Weekly, Dr Pepper, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Bridge to Terabithia, and more. Charlotte's best friend, Bridget, starts to buy outfits like the "cool kids" at school.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that You Go First, by Newbery Medal winner Erin Entrada Kelly (Hello, Universe), is told by two kids in alternating chapters -- a 12-year-old girl in Pennsylvania and an 11-year-old boy in Louisiana -- over the course of a week. Although they live in different states, the kids bond over an online game of Scrabble and help each other deal with their family and friendship issues. Characters use mild insults including "idiot," "dork," "nerd," and "loser." Bullying is a large part of the book, but kids will learn about the importance of family and the power of friendship, courage, and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLibraryAssistant July 23, 2019

Internal lives of tweens

I wouldn’t recommend this to teachers as a read aloud. It is not attention grabbing. I read the book every now and then and I kept forgetting Ben’s storyline. F... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 27, 2018

A touching, hopeful tale

This book is amazing! If you have read Erin Entrada Kelly’s other book, Hello Universe (I have;see my CSM review for more details) you will love this book. I re... Continue reading

What's the story?

YOU GO FIRST tells the story of 12-year-old Charlotte Lockard from Pennsylvania and 11-year-old Ben Boxer from Louisiana. Charlotte can't bear to visit her dad in the hospital and doesn't know what to do about her best friend leaving her for the "cool kids." Ben doesn't understand why his parents are divorcing or why he's having trouble fitting in at his new school. Thanks to an online game of Scrabble, the kids unknowingly help each other deal with their problems and eventually realize that friendships can form in unlikely places.

Is it any good?

This is a sweet and hopeful tale of friendship, family, and perseverance. Author Erin Entrada Kelly creates relatable characters whose unique, memorable connection and heartfelt conversations perfectly capture the awkward, at times humiliating, aspects of middle school. Packed with tons of advice and an important life lesson from Robert Frost, You Go First shows kids that everything will be OK. Readers will root for Charlotte and Ben as they learn to step outside their comfort zone and understand that it only takes one person to make you feel like you belong.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how You Go First deals with bullying. How does this issue affect the characters, especially Charlotte and Ben?

  • Ben thinks that his generation relies too much on digital communication. Do you agree? 

  • Charlotte and Ben are online friends who eventually start talking to each other on the phone even though they've never met IRL. Be sure to talk to kids about privacy, internet safety, and social media rules.

  • Do you ever feel different or left out? When? Do you think others in your class or school feel that way? What can you do to help them feel included? How have new friends come into your life? How have you helped build new friendships?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship tales and middle school stories

Themes & Topics

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