Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.
Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
I loved reading this touching and memorable story about plucky Merci and her family. The portrayal of family and culture were so moving, and Merci’s navigating of her private school world should be required reading for many private school classrooms. If I had one less than positive thing to say, it is that the story felt a bit long for children. I loved it – but I’m a reader and I regularly read 300 page novels when I was a middle-schooler. This story deserves to be read by all children, not just those that will stick with it for the whole 300 pages.
Thank you so much for my review copy via Net Galley!
From the New York Times bestselling author of Chocolat comes a dark, suspenseful tale in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about a sociopathic young outcast at an antiquated prep school and the curmudgeonly Latin teacher who uncovers his dangerous secret.
After thirty years at St. Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, England, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its own clowns, rebels, and underdogs—all who hold a special place in the old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t quite fit the mold. A troublemaker. A boy with darkness inside.
With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new headmaster arrives at the venerable school, bringing with him new technology, sharp suits, and even girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist these steps toward the future, a shadow from his past begins to stir again. A boy who still haunts Straitley’s dreams twenty years later. A boy capable of terrible things.
Wow — this was one of those books that again I could not put down. If you know me, you know I love reading about boarding schools, and this author captured all the nuances quite accurately. It was not only believable (so many books are just ridiculous – full of overprivileged and clueless rich kids with absent parents) but it captured the clash of old versus new. These types of schools often have teachers who have devoted their entire career to them – and have even been a student there themselves. They were educated there, lived there, worked there, and have become part of the fabric of the school. Straitley is one of those. So while yes, this is a mystery and is suspenseful, I found the character development and the portrayal of the intricacies and loyalties of a life in a school so very interesting.