Friday, February 24, 2023

Where You've Got to Be, by Caroline Gertler

At the start of sixth grade, Nolie's best friend Jessa decides that Nolie should start using her full name (Magnolia), which Nolie doesn't like.  Also, that Nolie needs to wear her skirts shorter and hang out only with the right kids.  Nolie doesn't like any of it, but when she tries to stand up for herself, she finds herself cast out of the old friendship circle.

And that isn't the only thing that is changing.  At home, her sister's just been cast in the lead role for The Nutcracker and now their parents are totally centered around her sister's needs.  Feeling ignored and self-pitying, Nolie starts "borrowing" objects that don't belong to her:  a necklace, a package of candy, and her grandma's antique compass.  When she gets caught, Nolie realizes that she's in too deep and, amidst all this change and challenge, that she's lost sight of who she is and who she wants to be.  Seeking guidance in her faith, she tries to atone and fix things.

A nice conduct-of-life middle reader with a large agenda of issues to address (including sibling rivalry, changing friendships, bullying, and even anti-Semitism).  It comes together a bit too abruptly at the end, but the right notes are struck. Ultimately, strong family ties, forgiveness, and making good choices are the path to a solution.  I would have liked to see more done with Nolie's interesting new BFF Serena, but there was a lot of material to cover in the story.

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