by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
I absolutely loved Murdock’s trilogy about female football player DJ Schwenk. Now DJ’s little brother’s best friend, Sarah, shares her own story – a story about an unconventional grandmother and the impact her decisions have down the line. This grandmother, whom they call Z, got pregnant in college with Sarah’s father and left him with her parents to raise. When Sarah is fourteen, Z decides to take Sarah to Rome, a trip which turns out to have a different purpose than Sarah thought. While she is trying to sort out everything she’s learned about her grandmother, she also grows up a lot and figures out a thing or two about her friendship with Curtis (DJ’s brother).
One thing I love about both DJ and Sarah is that they are hardy Midwestern girls and don’t talk about their feelings readily – as a hardy Midwestern girl myself, I identify a lot with them. I liked the times in this book when DJ and Sarah talk to each other, and when Sarah actually gets around to writing about her feelings (the book is presented in journal form, mostly from Sarah’s point of view). You can tell it’s hard for her, and her personality is funny but awkward and she’s much more interested in science than feelings, but she makes great strides and it’s fun to see how she works out what’s going on with her life. This is a great middle school book, and in fact it’s on our teen librarian’s list for the middle school book club. Because Sarah doesn’t find it easy to talk about her feelings, she may appeal to boys as a heroine more than they think.