I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. I think that this book would be pretty popular in my fifth grade classroom. Many of my students really enjoy stories about middle school drama, and this book has plenty of that. This book reminds me a lot of Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell only without the illustrations.
Hannah Smart is starting her first day of middle school in her new town of Maple Ridge. That's stressful enough, especially since many of the kids aren't very nice to her. Hannah's next-door-neighbor and new best friend, Gabby and her super cute brother, A.J., convince her to join the middle school ski and snowboarding club. Because Hannah moved to Maple Ridge from Vermont, everyone assumes she's a skier. Hannah is afraid to let on that she's never skied before, because she's afraid no one will like her.
As this misunderstanding begins to snowball out of control, Hannah takes on a job at the local television station where her father is the new weather reporter. Because Hannah is very clever and resourceful, she winds up with her own on-air weekly segment on the evening news.
As the date of the club's ski trip approaches, Hannah is going to have to either learn how to ski like a pro or come clean to everyone that she doesn't really know how to ski. Along the way, there are all sorts of funny moments of middle school drama that really make this book a lot of fun to read.
The characters in this book seem to be taken right from the hallways of your local middle school. Melody Fitzpatrick has really captured the way that kids in this age group interact with each other. Many of my favorite parts of the book come from Hannah's inner-monologue as she deals with the anxiety of riding a school bus with kids who are bullies, shopping for ski gear when she has no idea what kind of equipment she needs, and trying to manage her new television career.
I think kids will be able to relate to much of Hannah's stress. But at the same time, she's a fun heroine. Much like Nikki Maxwell of the Dork Diaries book, she's adventurous and spirited, but flawed and a bit clumsy. Because she's not perfect, the reader can't really be certain that everything is going to turn out all right, but we can definitely root for her.
I also think that the book has some positive messages for kids that are on the brink of growing up. Books that encourage young people to be true to themselves and others are important. Kids have a lot of pressure to go with the crowd and not be themselves. It's great to see a character learn lessons about how to do that while still be fun and funny.
Paperback, 112 pages
Expected publication: April 9th 2016 by Dundurn Press