Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by by Tae Keller

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary:  Mallory considers herself lucky to have a best friend like Reagan, someone who understands her fears and helps her move up the ladder of middle school popularity. So, when Jennifer Chan moves in across the street, Mallory is wary.  Jennifer is fascinated by aliens and hopes to find life in space.  Mallory actually finds this interesting, too, but knows it is potential bully bait at school, which indeed proves to be the case once seventh grade begins.  When Jennifer goes missing, Mallory starts to believe that she’s made contact with the aliens and enlists the help of two smart but less popular girls.  The narrative moves between the past and the present, with Mallory uncomfortably recalling The Incident, which she finally reveals in a climactic moment.  As she comes to terms with the fact that she has been a bully–or at least a bystander–she starts to re-evaluate what she wants in a friend and to see that she holds the key to finding Jennifer Chan.  Includes an author’s note describing her own experience with being bullied.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This powerful novel shows that everyone has a story to tell, whether that person is a bully, a target, or a bystander.  I liked how it didn’t just have a mean girl, but really showed each girl’s motivations for doing what she did.  Tae Keller has already won one Newbery, and I’m sure this book will be considered for another.

Cons:  Tess was the exception to my statement above and wasn’t as three-dimensional as the other characters.

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