Thursday, January 25, 2024

Today's read... Unstuck by Barbara Dee

Today's read circles around a girl, who dreams of becoming a writer. So, yes, it caught my interest just b because of that. Plus, there's something about the cover, which has me looking back it again and again. Maybe the little dragon? Or maybe the flowers. I do enjoy yellow flowers. Anyway, I'm expecting themes surrounding friendship and other common, middle school issues. Knowing this author, it will be well done, too.

So, off we go and see if it grabs or not!

by Barbara Dee
Middle Grade Contemporary
320 pages
ages 8 to 12

FEBRUARY 27th!!!

From critically acclaimed author Barbara Dee comes a middle grade novel about a girl whose struggles with writer’s block set off unexpected twists and turns, both on and off the page.

Lyla is thrilled when her seventh-grade English language arts class begins a daily creative writing project. For the past year, she’s been writing a brilliant fantasy novel in her head, and here’s her chance to get it on paper! The plot to Lyla’s novel is super complicated, with battle scenes and witches and a mysterious one-toed-beast, but at its core, it’s about an overlooked girl who has to rescue her beautiful, highly accomplished older sister.

But writing a fantasy novel turns out to be harder than simply imagining one, and pretty soon Lyla finds herself stuck, experiencing a panic she realizes is writer’s block. Part of the problem is that she’s trying to impress certain people—like Rania, her best friend who’s pulling away, and Ms. Bowman, the coolest teacher at school. Plus, there’s the pressure of meeting the deadline for the town writing contest. A few years ago, Lyla’s superstar teen sister Dahlia came in second, and this time, Lyla is determined to win first prize.

Finally, Lyla confides about her writing problems to Dahlia, who is dealing with her own academic stress as she applies to college. That’s when she learns Dahlia’s secret, which is causing a very different type of writer’s block. Can Lyla rescue a surprisingly vulnerable big sister, both on the page and in real life?



Life is anything but calm as a girl chases her writing dreams, while reality plays its own complicated twists and turns around her.

Lyla's entire life is off-balance with her best friend in a different school and her parents stressing out over her older sister's college preparations. At least, Lyla has the English writing assignment under control. After all, the most awesome story idea is waiting in her head to turn into written words. Except that getting the right words down is harder than she thought. Writer's block hits hard after the first sentence, not that she'll admit it...that's if she had someone to admit it to. While her best friend is finding new friends, which have nothing in common with Lyla, Lyla only seems to be somewhat-ish connecting with a girl, who has more animals than a zoo. All Lyla wants is someone to share her writing highs and lows with, but nobody seems to care. Not that it matters. If things continue, she won't have any friends left, anyway.

Lyla is a very, normal seventh grader, who is easy to connect with. The writing comes across naturally, as if Lyla were someone right in the room. It's written from her point of view, and during the first pages, she addresses the reader as if they were her friends. After this, it switches gears smoothly, and she dives into the story.  

Many readers will find something in Lyla they can see in their own lives. She has a loving family but not a perfect one, especially since her older sister and parents can't seem to agree. Then, there's the entire friend drama, which is a very real problem for this age group as friendships change as fast as the kids do themselves. The insecurities are understandable and easy to relate to. especially since no one seems to 'get' Lyla. This is, again, something many readers of the age group will have no problem seeing in their own lives and be curious to see how Lyla deals with it.

It's a quick, easy read thanks to the lighter writing style. Lyla comes across open and honest. Sometimes, she gets a bit off track, while others, she lets her drama-side flow. It adds the right amount of humor (along with Journey's animals) to add smiles and keep the story light. The messages are wholesome and surround family and friendship. Plus, there's an awesome teacher involved, too.

While readers, who dream of becoming writers, will see quite a bit of themselves in Lyla (and catch a few writing hints along the way), fans of friendship problems will also enjoy this one quite a bit.

And here she is...

Barbara Dee is the author of fourteen middle grade novels including Unstuck, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, Violets Are BlueMy Life in the Fish TankMaybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About YouHalfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

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