This is stunning. I am infatuated with this book. It sent me on an emotional journey back 29 years to middle school, with all the anxiety, insecurity, and defining moments that go with it. While I read this, I felt 11 all over again. Sometime that was fun, and sometimes, it was awful. I experienced so many moments of crying, followed by laughing, and then crying again. If anyone had watched me read this book, they would have been convinced I had come unhinged, which would have been correct, because that’s what happens when you read a book that is so achingly raw and honest. It takes you to all these real and sometimes difficult places, and let’s you have a look back on who you’ve been and consider who you still want to be.
This novel addresses the bystander effect in a real way, a way that so many people are going to relate to on all different sides. It also provides us with the most lovable character ever in Charlotte. She’s sweet. She’s funny, and she’s afraid of a lot of things, particular that who she is as a person won’t be good enough or will be mocked by others. It’s the kind of fear that eats her up from the inside out and impacts how she reacts in intense or emotional situations. Charlotte struggles to be the best version of herself, but when she panics, she sometimes makes poor choices that hurt herself and others.
Charlotte stutters, and is very self conscious about it. This plays a major role in the story. I have read a lot of middle grade novels, but I have never read one that addressed stuttering in such an interesting and through away. It’s a way that helped me really understand what it must feel like to stutter and all the challenges, stereotypes, and disrespect that can come along with that. Since the author also stutters, I knew reading this, that she must have dug into those deepest and darkest emotions and self doubts, in order to give Charlotte so much voice and authenticity. She’s an incredible and compelling character with so much depth and heart. This book addresses what it feels like to stutter, in a way that often broke my heart. It also shows us ways in which people can try to manage a stutter or regroup, whenever words don’t come out the same as everyone else. It’s so informative, without ever feeling like it’s educating me. I just followed Charlotte on her journey and learned so much about what it feels like to fight for your words, and also, how important it is for others to be patient, empathetic, and accepting when it comes to differences in communicating.
The adults in this story are all amazing. They’re loving and supportive. They really care and try. I love seeing that in a middle grade novel, and since Charlotte keeps everything locked up tight inside, it took a whole lot of different types of mentors and support to help push her, prod her, and encourage her to speak up and be the best and most honest version of herself. Each mentor played a different role in helping her find her voice and fix her mistakes, and I loved them all.
This book is well-written, relatable, and relevant. I wish this book had been on my shelves when I was still a middle school librarian, because I knew so many kids that needed this story and would have benefited from reading about a character that they could relate to. This book is like a long, warm hug for anyone who has ever struggled to navigate through the storm tossed seas of middle school, while just trying to keep keep their head above water. It’s gorgeous and painful and triumphant, and I’m still emotional about it, a whole day later.
I could really use a Charlotte in my life. I think she’s magnificent, and I adore her.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an ARC for review. I loved this one so much that I have already gone out and preordered the hardcover and the audiobook. I’m pretty sure that I will be hugging this book, as soon as the print version arrives at my house. Release date is August 24, 2021, so just preorder it now. That way you don’t forget. You aren’t going to want to miss this one. It’s worth your time and the emotional investment.
PS: I almost totally forgot to mention that this story has a musical theater element, and that it is fantastic and adds a lot of fun and humor to the story. If you love musicals, this will be right up your alley. This book really does have it all. I practically wrote you a novel, just to tell you how much I love it.
Absolute perfection. I adore this book. Full review tomorrow. I’m too emotional to write anything coherent tonight.