Allie Kimball and her best friend, Tamara Thompson, have been looking forward to starting sixth grade all summer. But sixth grade isn’t turning out to be what Allie expected at all. She discovers that middle school is a different world, requiring a whole is a different world, requiring a whole new vocabulary. The halls are full of strange new beasts, like glommers—girls who never go anywhere alone—and norks—a nerd/ dork combination. Now Allie has to define herself before she gets lost in the jungle of sixth grade.
The only question is, where does Allie fit in?
School Library Journal–Allie Kimball is starting Grover Cleveland Middle School, and nothing is the same as it was in elementary school. Her friend Tamara is making her feel like a “nork” (someone beyond both nerd and dork, in Allie’s hilarious vocabulary notes) for being overly unconcerned about her clothes and messy room. Worse yet, Tamara is turning into a “glommer” (a clingy friend) to stuck-up Renee, and making fun of Allie’s soccer mates. Allie slowly begins to realize that she has changed too, even in how she feels about her longtime crush and other boys whom she formerly found dorky. This story is a hoot, full of real kinds of middle school misadventures centered around a protagonist who has a kind heart and a tremendous gift for descriptive language. She’s willing to look up meanings for words teachers give her, but sometimes she has a meaning and needs to make up a word to fit it, so each chapter includes her relevant gems. She could start a new trend with “stealth freakies” (“a feeling that comes before dread…”), and “road chicken” (“someone who can’t decide which side to be on, and ends up standing in the middle of the road…which is, of course, where the cars are”). Funny and appealing. (Paula J. LaRue, Van Wert City Schools, OH)
Booklist–Allie Kimball is a little intimidated about starting middle school, especially since she will be going to a magnet school for smart kids rather than to her neighborhood school. Best friend Tamara is not much help, especially when former friend Renee inserts herself between Allie and Tamara, encouraging Tamara to try out for cheerleading rather than soccer with Allie. Predictable misunderstandings, cat fights, and dirty tricks ensue, resulting in hurt feelings and, eventually, a greater understanding of what really counts in life. Papademetriou’s strength lies in her well-tuned ear for middle-school dialogue and understanding of preteen concerns. Allie and her friends may be shallow and annoying, but they are also people readers will easily recognize. The addition of invented slang with definitions (“nork: a combination of nerd and dork”) adds to the appeal. Funny and poignant by turns, this will attract readers getting ready to leave elementary school behind. (Kay Weisman)