Book Review: Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart

About a week ago, I was browsing the children’s book category on Bookshare and I came across the realistic middle grade novel Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart. Gephart was a new to me author even though she’s had eight middle grade novels published so far.

I was already reading four different books at the same time, but needed something, uhm, lighter? Not that the subject matter of this book is light, but I did expect it to be more easy to read than the adult novels I was reading. I raced through the first 80% of this book, then let it sit there because the #AtoZChallenge got in the way. I eventually decided to finish the book last night. Let me share my thoughts.

Summary

When Abby Braverman’s best friend, Cat, moves to Israel, she’s sure it’s the worst thing that could happen. But then her older brother, Paul, is diagnosed with cancer, and life upends again. Now it’s up to Abby to find a way to navigate seventh grade without her best friend, help keep her brother’s spirits up during difficult treatments, and figure out her surprising new feelings for the boy next door.

My Review

First, let me share that this book is really good with respect to its representation of diverse characters. Abby and her family are Jewish, which in a way shouldn’t be surprising, but it was to me. Abby has two Moms and nowhere is there a mention of a biological father. Abby just corrects people who assume she must have a Mom and a Dad.

Second, Abby is a truly great character. At first, she seems a bit dorky, but her sense of humor is apparent pretty quickly. I really loved the word jokes in this book. One of them, about Mom Rachel’s cooking YouTube, I didn’t even get until I’d finished the book.

Despite the tough subject matter of Paul’s cancer, this is a really lighthearted read. I don’t mean that the hard parts are sugarcoated – they aren’t. I mean, Paul truly experiences grief and sadness and this is made very clear. However, through Abby’s strength, I keep feeling that everything will be okay in the end.

The side characters are also very well-developed. I totally rooted for Conrad, the boy next door Abby has feelings for. However, there are also more negative characters out there. That makes this story believable and yet positive at the same time.

Overall, I loved this story. I gave it a solid five stars on Goodreads.

Book Details

Title: Abby, Tried and True
Author: Donna Gephart
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Book Review: Wink by Rob Harrell

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for middle grade books and googled something like middle grade books in 2020. One of the first results that popped up was Wink by Rob Harrell. I read the blurb and was immediately determined to read it.

First though, I had to finish Wonder. I finished that last week, so after that and after a short break for processing, I proceeded to this book.

Wink

Summary

A wrenching and hilarious story about embracing life’s weirdness and surviving an unthinkable diagnosis, based on the author’s own experience with a rare eye cancer.

Twelve-year-old Ross Maloy just wants to be normal. Not to have a rare eye cancer, not to lose his hair, not to have to wear a weird hat or have a goopy eye full of ointment. Just normal. But with a sudden and horrifying diagnosis, Ross can’t help standing out. His new life is medical treatments that feel straight out of a video game, vision loss in one eye, disappearing friends who don’t know what to say to “the cancer kid,” cruel bullying, and ultimately, friendships new and old that rise above everything.

Just when Ross starts to feel like he’s losing his footing, he discovers how music, art, and true friends can change everything. Filled with Rob Harrell’s comic panels (Batpig for the win!) and spot art, this novel brings effortless humor and hope to an unforgettable, uplifting story of survival.

My Review

Well, I cannot see the illustrations, so this review is purely about the story. And let me tell you, it’s an amazing story! Harrell has created Ross to be so totally witty, I loved it! I mean, even in the darkest of times, while my heart went out to Ross, I also found the story humorous. Ross truly shows his determination. He may not (as he says) have some big epiphany in which he realizes life is a precious gift, but he does retain his sense of humor in spite of it all. That’s awesome. I mean, this book had me laugh out loud on several occasions.

What’s also important, is the development the characters go through. I liked how Harrell creates his characters to be as open to friendship as they were. I mean, I know this book is a middle grade novel and some kids that age are just so closed-minded. Harrell’s characters for the most part are not.

I loved that this book had just one viewpoint, that of Ross. It shows us what goes on inside a “cancer kid”‘s mind without the added baggage of family members or friends. Of course, they chime in on occasion, but that’s okay. Oh, and not just Ross, but many other characters are totally awesome.

I loved Harrell’s writing style, the dialogue and how quickly this book moved. All absolutely great.

In short, this wasn’t some inspirational story, and yet it was. It’s partly based on Harrell’s own experience, even though I assume Harrell was an adult when he got cancer. I think this book definitely provides some perspective to middle schoolers and yet puts a laugh on their faces.

Book Details

Title: Wink
Author: Rob Harrell
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2020

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