It’s middle grade Double-Dip time again! I just love getting stuck into the middle grade titles – my TBR shelf comprises about 75% middle grade titles and it’s a reading age-bracket that we just can’t get enough of. Today we have a boy in a bubble and a girl competing with a boy band. Grab your snack and dive in!
First up we have Girl vs. Boy Band: The Right Track by Harmony Jones, the opener of a new series aimed at tween girls who aren’t quite ready for YA contemporary titles but are craving a bit of innocent romantic interaction. We received this one from Bloomsbury for review. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Talented but painfully shy eighth-grader Lark secretly writes feisty, heartfelt songs about her life-about school, crushes on boys, not getting along with her mom, and missing her dad who lives in Nashville. But that secret becomes harder to keep when Lark’s mother, a music record executive at her own label, announces that British boy band Abbey Road will be coming to live with them while they make their first album!
Sharing her L.A. house with three noisy, mischievous rising stars isn’t as glamorous as expected, especially when things aren’t going smoothly with the band members. When one of them plagiarizes one of Lark’s songs and passes it off as his own, will Lark gain the courage to step into the spotlight herself?
…innocent adventures with a self-effacing and down-to-earth main character who is going through some majorly disruptive life events. Lark is a girl with a lot of talent but not much confidence, whose recent family breakup has meant that she has had to move to a new town. Her best friend Mimi provides the comic relief and the encouragement and the strong friendship developed throughout the book will appeal to young female readers. As indeed will the attractive young males that suddenly appear in Lark’s house, due to her mother’s job as a musical talent agent and recording studio boss. Generally, this is a story featuring a positive pair of female leads, pitched at a female audience on the cusp of the teenage experience.
Don’t dip if…
…you’re not up for a tween-girl issues fest. I will admit that this is not my kind of book, and while there is obviously a gap in the market that needs to be filled with age-appropriate content for young women who are venturing into the romance/contemporary genre and need something slightly less adult-themed than your typical YA title, I cannot picture the actual young person who will pick up this book and get excited about it. Clearly, I am not the target audience for this one.
Overall Dip Factor
If you can stomach tween-angst (or you are a tween), then this is a fun, light read with some beguiling main characters on a crazy, growing-up adventure. There’s a bit of diversity thrown in, in that Mimi, Lark’s best friend is Latina. This is a good opening piece for what will be an ongoing series with a slight cliffhanger ending that will entice readers to seek out the second book. Overall, I enjoyed the friendship between Mimi and Lark and the focus on Lark gaining confidence to shine her light, as it were.
Next up we have The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster, which we received from Simon & Schuster Australia for review. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
They call it a crash when the blood goes from my head to my feet, pours out into the room and drains through a hole in the middle of the floor. They call it a crash when the walls start spinning and the pictures blur. Then the ceiling turns black and the floor turns black and I don’t know which way I’m facing any more.
Eleven-year-old Joe can’t remember a life outside of his hospital room, with its beeping machines and view of London’s rooftops. His condition means he’s not allowed outside, not even for a moment, and his few visitors risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and changes it for ever.
THE BUBBLE BOY is the story of how Joe spends his days, copes with his loneliness and frustrations, and looks – with superhero-syle bravery, curiosity and hope – to a future without limits. Expect superheroes, super nurses and a few tears from this truly unique story.
…a remarkably engaging story, considering that all the action takes place entirely in the one room! Joe is a winning narrator, and despite the fact that the majority of the other characters in the book are adults, the story never loses the feel of being a middle grade read, told by a middle grade-aged protagonist. The inclusion of Henry, Joe’s fellow bubble boy from America, and their regular Skype chats, plus the computer forum interactions between Joe and various others provides a nice change in format from the typical text, and reflects the sense that it is mostly tiny changes in day-to-day routine that Joe looks forward to. There are some big issues at play here, but Foster manages to keep most of them in balance with a deft hand.
Don’t dip if…
…you are looking for an action-packed adventure. Much like a long, uneventful hospital stay, the book moves at a leisurely, predictable pace with stretches of sameness punctuated by startling interludes.
Overall Dip Factor
This is a middle grade “relationship and growth” novel that is atypical in the telling. While there are challenges and sad events that Joe has to face, there is an undeniable sense of warmth and security running through the book that neatly compensates for the more ominous elements of Joe’s life. On reflection, I wonder how the book might have read differently, had Joe’s parents been in the picture, but that is just idle curiosity. Overall, The Bubble Boy is an intriguing and thought-provoking (and quite funny) foray into middle-grade sicklit (!) and a strong second offering from Foster.
I hope your appetite for middle grade reading has been sated somewhat by these two titles!
Until next time,