Published by Balzer+Bray
Summary: Jenae is starting middle school expecting it to be a lot like elementary school: no friends, keeping to herself, and desperately struggling to get out of any kind of public speaking. When a new boy, Aubrey, refuses to give up on his friendly overtures, Jenae isn’t sure how to handle it, alternately pushing him away and welcoming his friendship. Things at home are also difficult for her, with a brother who’s suffered an injury that may have ended his basketball dreams, a grandfather who’s just had a stroke, and a harried mother who doesn’t have much time or sympathy for Jenae. Jenae’s new English teacher is big on public speaking, and Aubrey eagerly invites her to pair up with him for a debate. Their topic is a controversy that has their whole school buzzing: whether to keep the school’s current namesake John Wayne, or to change the name to honor Sylvia Mendez. There’s a lot going on for Jenae, but she slowly faces her fears one by one and learns to bravely embrace the changes that middle school brings. 304 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: Lisa Moore Ramée’s shares in a note at the beginning of the book that she experienced many of the same anxieties as Jenae when she was a girl. Jenae’s insecurities and beliefs that she caused her brother’s and grandfather’s health issues are a bit frustrating at times, but also very realistic. Introverts everywhere will understand her dual urges to push away and embrace a new friend.
Cons: The quick resolution of Jenae’s deep fear of public speaking didn’t really ring true.