Young Adult Kip Polmanteer shares her thoughts on Not Your All-American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang below.
In Not Your All-American Girl, authors Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang have created a story that engages middle grade readers without overwhelming them. It is filled with relatable growing pains, the daily effects of racist micro-aggressions, and a recognition of the power of music.
The book follows Lauren Horowitz, a Jewish Chinese-American sixth grader, as she navigates the complexities of friendship, bigotry, and the search for self-confidence. What starts as a humorous exploration of sixth grade, country music radio, and theater auditions quickly becomes a deeper and more heartfelt look at how prejudice plays into Lauren’s life, especially where she least expects it.
Readers will become engrossed and enraged as musically adept Lauren auditions for the lead role in a school play set in the 1950s and is turned down for the part because she does not fit the description of an all-American girl. As Lauren is forced to explain why the only Asian character in the movie Sixteen Candles is problematic, or why a hate crime committed against a stranger affects her so deeply, she is put at odds with her friends and teachers.
With a light but firm hand, authors Rosenberg and Shang show readers the depths of Lauren’s troubles as she wonders how she will be able to sing again when her heart is so burdened. But with the support of her two grandmothers (in whom readers will see hilarious shades of their own grandparents), a local country radio DJ, and the music of Patsy Cline, Lauren finds a way to sing her own song.
This book is engaging for kids and adults alike. Set in the 1980s, the nostalgia factor alone will keep parents reading along, but this sweet and simple story will capture readers of all ages with its honest look at how people change and grow. Relatable scenarios will leave kids and adults laughing aloud, and teachable moments worthy of family discussions abound.
At a time when juvenile fiction is filled with tragic circumstances and heavy missives, it can be difficult to pick up a book without worrying about how intense the story will be. We need stories that reflect the dark parts of our lives but don’t crush our spirits in the reading. This story walks that perfect middle ground.
Not Your All-American Girl sings loudly without straining its voice and is an excellent reminder that a book need not be dark and brooding to be important. Simply written, with a sprinkling of small illustrations, this straight-forward read is worth picking up and sharing.
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