A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2020
An own-voices LGBTQ novel from the acclaimed author of Hurricane Season, about eighth grader Brie, who learns how to be true to herself and to her relationships with family, friends, and faith.
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has, yet. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
One of the few things 13-year-old Brie and her mother have in common is their love of soap operas, and the eighth grader can't wait to use her extensive knowledge of their dramatics when she auditions for her New Jersey school's play. But when her mom walks in just after she stumbles upon Playboy photos of her favorite female actor online, Brie blurts a lie to distract her: Brie will crown Mary during her Catholic school's annual celebratory mass. In reality, that honor is usually reserved for top students such as Kennedy Bishop, a classmate on whom Brie develops a crush. Mediocre student Brie redoubles her scholarly efforts, hoping to crown Mary and prove that she's responsible enough to try out for a performing arts high school. Brie also worries about her disassociation from her faith, which is linked in her mind to her awakening sexuality and the growing distance she feels between herself and her mother. Melleby (Hurricane Season) paints Brie as a recognizable teen: authentic in her self-centeredness and sympathetic in her attempts to embrace her identity. Brie's anxiety over her faith, as well as how to come out to her loved ones, is wrenching and genuine in this accomplished, leisurely paced read. Ages 10 up.