Recommended Age: 13+
Tags: Diversity, Drama, Family, Comedy, Magic, Music, Romance
- Mild language: Examples of bullying and insecurities.
- Mild sexuality: Brief kissing.
Rory Campbell has been in love with the boy next door since their epic childhood kiss in the sandbox. There’s only one problem: that boy is in love with her sister. As much as Rory would love for Toby to return her feelings, she doesn’t want to be anyone’s second choice. But her new friends are not only helping her fend off jealous art students and failing grades, they are determined that Rory finally get her own love story. While pushing herself through her tedious English homework, Rory worries she identifies too much with Gatsby to warrant a happy ending. But her English teacher, the insightful Ms. Gregoire, gives her some new reading material… and hopefully a chance at love.
Ms. Gregoire is a literature version of Ms. Frizzle, and her habit of finding the perfect book for her students to help them work through life’s challenges has made her an impressive matchmaker. While she’s never the focus of a story, she’s always in the background cheering on her students and hoping for the best. She’s the ultimate teacher. She understands that everyone learns differently and the best way to learn is to have fun. While this series focuses on a different character in each book, with Rory being the younger sister of the first book’s protagonist, Ms. Gregoire always shows up with her magical flair.
Merri fully embraced the magic and mystery of her reading experience, but Rory is more skeptical and analytical. Merri’s narrative in the first book is fun and whimsically romantic, but Rory’s perspective is more raw. She holds her flaws close to her heart, as well as her talents, and is in the midst of working through her own challenges. She shows how readers can often relate to the wrong character when we are in our worst moments, or being too hard on ourselves. Sometimes we see ourselves in the face of the antagonist, or the rejected lover or the failure. And while we’re all different minor characters in other peoples’ stories, we’re also the main character in our own story.
Rory’s insecurities aren’t soothed when she realizes her character in Little Women is the youngest sister who is often criticized for being bratty and unlikable. But just as we saw in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, Amy March is not to be overlooked or forgotten. She is a heroine in her own right and she deserves a great sweeping love in her life. Rory, like Amy, is an artist who deals with bullies. She struggles in school and often feels left out with her sisters. Her prickly nature makes her seem deliberately separate in an independent way, when in reality Rory isolates herself before anyone can reject her. She misses opportunities in her life because she’s not willing to try, and this book explores how she overcomes that flaw and discovers more about herself. She becomes stronger and learns to speak up for herself.
People will look at the cute covers and comparisons to literature in this series as light hearted and fun, and that’s true. But it doesn’t mean that these books can’t reflect our deepest wishes, biggest regrets, and unspoken strengths. A book doesn’t have to be serious in order to be important. Rory works through her struggles to see her own importance and the value she adds to the people around her. Her sisters have the best scenes and share a very relatable sibling dynamic. Her parents are my absolute favorite, and her mom’s devastation over her daughter’s struggles is heartbreaking.
Teenagers will see themselves in Rory and her classmates, while parents will appreciate the hard work Mr. and Mrs. Campbell put into taking care of their girls and anyone else who needs a healthy adult presence in their life. As long as a book is well written, it is for all ages.
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