Rick by Alex Gino (9781338048100)
The author of award-winning George returns with another story that explores identity and what it takes to be a good friend. Rick’s best friend Jeff is someone that makes rude comments, makes others the butt of his jokes, but is still pretty nice to Rick most of the time. Now that they are in middle school, Rick is noticing new opportunities. He is drawn to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club and lies to Jeff about where he is going once a week. In the club, Rick discovers a space where everyone is welcome and accepted. He also learns a name for his own identity which lets him realize that there is nothing wrong with him. As he makes new friends in the club, Jeff starts to target their posters for his bullying and hate. It’s up to Rick to decide if he can stand up to Jeff, his best friend, or if he will continue to stand by and stay silent.
Gino’s writing is a delightful mix of depth and lightness. They keep their tone light throughout the book and yet explore deep subjects of bullying and identity. Gino incorporates so many different characters who identify as part of the LGBTQIAP+ community. It is lovely to see so many different representations in one book, while insisting on using inclusive terms and respect for everyone’s identity. There is even the surprise of Rick’s own grandfather and how he identifies himself, deftly showing that this community has existed for some time.
Rick is a great protagonist, exploring his own identity as someone who doesn’t relate to others falling for girls or boys that they have never really met. He explores the possibility of being asexual or ace, demonstrating on the page what questioning looks like.
Another winner of a rainbow book from a great middle-grade author. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)
In this sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, the focus is on Felicity, Monty’s sister. Felicity desperately wants to become a doctor, but in 18th century England, women did not become doctors. Felicity tries again and again to gain entry to a medical education, but is rebuffed. She is forced to give up her job at a bakery because the kind man who owns it proposes marriage to her. Felicity is not interested in romance at all. When she learns that her childhood best friend is set to marry her medical idol, Felicity heads to Germany to attend the wedding. She is funded Sim, by a rather questionable companion, who poses as Felicity’s maid to gain entry into the same household but for unknown reasons. As things develop, there is another whirlwind adventure across continents in a quest that could be legendary.
Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. It is a delight to see Felicity at the center of the novel, as she was a character readers will have loved in the first book but longed to know more about. The book takes place a year after the first ended, just enough time for the dust to settle on that adventure. Lee gives readers glimpses of Monty and Percy, but they do not overtake Felicity’s story.
As readers get to know Felicity better, they will realize that she is a person with no interest in romance or sex. Modern terms would describe her as asexual, but that term is not used in the book. Beautifully, that does not mean that she is cold or distant, rather that she is not interested in kissing or cuddling much and certainly has no designs on romantic futures with other characters. And yet, there is love in the book. Brotherly love, deep connections and real female friendships shine here.
A wonderful second book in an award-winning series, there is so much to adore on these pages. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.