This is not your school's summer reading list

All Alone in the Universe

allalone

By Lynne Rae Perkins
A Greenwillow Book, Harper Trophy, an Imprint of HarperCollins, 1999
ISBN: 978-0-688-16881-0
ALA Notable Book * ALA Booklist Editor’s Choice * Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book * Smithsonian Notable Book For Children * CCBC Choice Selection * Bank Street Best Book ^ New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

An oldie but goodie.

If you ask me, All Alone in the Universe is the perfect illustrated novel for middle school girls facing a long summer. So much happens to kids in those ten hot weeks, and this novel captures that drama with spot-on storytelling. Meet Debbie and Hector, both fourteen and part of a group of friends longing for something interesting to happen to them. Is it love? A life as a musician? The right pair of pants?

Lynne Rae Perkins, winner of the 2006 Newbery Medal for Criss Cross, brings humor and insight to the story of a plain old summer, for plain old middle school kids, all of whom are starting to feel that life ought to be more than what it is now in their town of Seldem.

The drawings are funny expressions of how we see the world at fourteen, and the dual narrative of Lenny and Debbie works well, too. I also admired the mother/daughter dynamic, especially around their shared experiences of a boy who has moved on.

This is a story of ordinary kids trying to break out of their boredom and find themselves as they start to say goodbye to childhood. I found myself rooting for friends Debbie and Maureen and for all the kids in Seldem—even the handsome young jock who could, in fact, remain a jerk unless life throws him enough opportunities to find another way.

I think middle grade strong girls will see their friendships here, their missteps, and so many of their own yearnings. A terrific summer read. – Meg

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