Brett McCarthy lives for soccer, vocabulary words, and her largerthan-life grandmother, Nonna. Unfortunately, Brett’s got a huge mouth she can’t seem to tame and opinions she can’t keep to herself. It’s thanks in part to both of those things (well, really, the evil Jeanne Anne) that Brett finds herself going from good student and BFF to Diane, to twicesuspended, friendless, and lunching with the principal every day. Indefinitely. So when Nonna starts going for lots of medical tests and no one will tell her why, Brett’s already turned-upside down world goes from bad to worse, and she’s not sure where she fits, who she is, or how to make right what she, and her big fat mouth, have made wrong. Maria Padian makes her literary debut with a laugh-out-loud coming-of-age novel about one smart-mouthed 14-year-old who’s learning the hard way that she is a work in progress.
When the interloper Jeanne Anne betrays Brett McCarthy's involvement in an unfortunate prank, Brett feels like her whole sense of self has become redefined. Instead of "Vocab Ace; Best Eighth Grade Corner Kicker in Maine; Diane's Best Friend" she has become "Practically Friendless; Violent; [and] Suspended." As she tries to make sense of the changes that are inherent to adolescence, she must also cope with familial changes, particularly the terminal illness of her vivacious, independent grandmother. Padian's first book deftly handles the social nuances of junior high life. Brett's "brainiac" friend Michael's comparison of junior high with Dante's Inferno, while perhaps unrealistic even for an academically-gifted 8th grader, is nevertheless a clever portrayal of middle school group dynamics. Although some of the secondary characters approach stereotyping, Brett's complexity is captivating. She is a talented jock with a flair for words whose sarcastic wit sometimes (OK, frequently) gets her into trouble. Her attempts to grapple with the mysteries of growing up and maintaining relationshipswith friends and family members, adults and peerswill sit comfortably with readers struggling with the same issues. Young teens will enjoy this heartfelt and optimistic book with its lively young heroine. Reviewer: Heather Christensen