Saturday, August 17, 2019

Running through Sprinklers, by Michelle Kim

Sara is looking forward to spending the last year of middle school with her best friend Nadine.  However, at the end of summer Nadine announces that she's skipping a grade and starting high school.  It isn't just that they are spending the year in different schools.  Suddenly Nadine is too busy to spend time with Sara and scoffs at Sara's "childish" ideas.  In anger, Sara makes friends with Nadine's little sister, but it doesn't help bring the girls back together.

I tend to like these bittersweet and nostalgic stories of friends growing apart.  They are certainly common in books for middle grade readers.  This one, though, is surprisingly cluttered.  Full of subplots (including a strange abduction story that just is left dangling in the end), the story gets overwhelmed but everything else.  There's bra shopping and the first periods as one would expect for a book targeted for girls in this age group, but even coming of age seems buried, despite its obvious relationship to Sara and Nadine's estrangement.  Critics have lauded the book for its multicultural elements (both Sara and Nadine are bi-racial) but while a certain amount of attention is spent on Sara's Korean heritage, it's hardly an important element.  The book is just noisy and distracting.

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