Title: Things That Surprise You
Author: Jennifer Maschari
Published: August 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: Middle grade, realistic fiction
How I got the book: I bought it at Barnes & Noble
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.
But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.
Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?
This book caught my attention when so many book bloggers were reviewing it here on WordPress back in the summer. It took me a while to get around to it, but I finally did and ended up reading it in one sitting.
Emily Murphy and her best friend Hazel are starting middle school. Hazel sees that as a big step in their lives, but Emily sees it as school. It’s not a big deal. Emily is more excited about a movie based on their favorite book series coming out in a few months. She’s into cosplaying for the midnight premiere of the latest book while Hazel tags along, but just doesn’t seem to be into it as much.
As Hazel begins to hang out with girls on her sports team, Emily wonders what’s wrong with her. This book is about finding who you are as well as discovering who your true friends are. Yet, it’s okay to drift apart from old friends.
Meanwhile, Emily is having a hard time at home as her older sister comes home from being away for so long trying to recover from her anorexia.
Emily made a great protagonist. She was naive and, for the most part, wasn’t ashamed of what she liked. While others around her, such as Hazel and her new friends, believed her to be a “baby,” Emily continued to like what she likes. Her feelings got hurt and she was embarrassed, but without realizing it, Emily stayed true to who she was through and through.
Hazel reminded me a lot of a friend I used to have. We drifted apart in fifth grade as we both found other friends to hang out with. Hazel tried to keep in touch with Emily, but it was hard for her. She wanted to “grow up” and Emily didn’t. Hazel tried to include Emily in group events with her new friends, but those friends were kind of mean girls and Hazel wasn’t the best at sticking up for Emily. It was a bittersweet ending for their friendship.
I loved the parts with Mina, Emily’s older sister. Emily was feeling left out with her friends and even left out at home as her parents focused a lot on Mina’s health. Emily is supportive of her sister but also aches for an older sister who she can hang out with and talk to. Mina was a great character from beginning to end.
Being a middle-grade novel, this was a quick and easy read. The overall story flowed well and between Emily’s parts about finding herself, making new friends, trying to hold onto Hazel’s friendship, and keep her sister, everything intermingled very well.
This story was adorable and conveyed an important message that I think most middle-schoolers should read. Anyone can read it and I’m sure most of us can relate to its content.
Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari gets…
5 out of 5 stars
“It strikes me that people are kind of like those lollipops with Tootsie Rolls in the center – if you wait awhile, you get surprised by something awesome that sits just below the surface.” –Jennifer Maschari, Things That Surprise You
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