Friday, April 18, 2014

Review - "The Meaning of Maggie"

Being a child can be distressing.  I think many adults forget just how unsettling being young can really be.  You may be the smartest kid on the block, but there are things you won’t know, things that adults won’t tell you, and hard truths you will have to earn.  The smallest of things can topple even the most carefully built house of cards, and when you’re a kid, you’re living in a world of cards.  Swipe.  Moving house/town/country.  Start over.  Swipe.  You finally learn where babies come from.  Start over.  Swipe.  You lose someone, a pet, friend of family member, and suddenly have to navigate the world without them.  Start over.  It’s a shaky world kids live in, one over which they have almost no control.  It’s no wonder that the world of juvenile literature is full to the brim with stories of unsettlement.  It’s one thing to which every child in the universe can relate.  Megan Jean Sovern’s debut middle grade novel, The Meaning of Maggie, tackles issues of a serious nature, but from the (generally) light-hearted point of view of our heroine, Maggie: super-student, bookworm, candy-aficionado and future President of the United States.

Maggie received a journal for her twelfth birthday, and decides to write a memoir of her eleventh year, the year that changed her life (so far).  Eleven was the year her father, now confined to a wheelchair with MS, stopped working, and her mother started.  Eleven was the year she got a B on her science fair project (a B!!!), and the year she ran a mile in gym class.  Eleven was the year of her first crush.  Eleven was the year she finally learned some difficult realities about her father’s illness, her family dynamics and her own limitations.  Eleven was a very big year.

Right off the bat, Maggie is a delightful character.  She’s funny, mentally hyper, a little selfish (sometimes a lot selfish) and surprisingly naïve.  For such a smart girl, there’s a lot about growing up that she doesn’t know, or flat out doesn’t want to know (forget about kissing parts of books, she’s not interested).  Maggie is an extraordinary every-girl, and this makes her journey of discoveries all the more relatable and enjoyable.  Behind Maggie is an equally interesting family, including her “no hotness allowed on a school night” sisters and her former hippie parents.  These are people I can see how they fit together, even with all their differences.  Maggie’s father’s illness, about which she knows shockingly little in the beginning, progresses throughout the story, but it never feels like an issue is being forced.

This is a book with a lot of plates in the air, but Ms. Sovern handles everything with the ease of a seasoned professional.  A fantastic work, I’m sure this is one that will stay in my mind towards the end of the year.

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
2014, Chronicle Books
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

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