MMGM and #IMWAYR: The Do-Over and more!

Hello, hello! I am hours away from submitting my final assignment for my first semester of grad school (🥳), and I've finally had the chance to get back into reading for fun, thank goodness. I've missed you all, so I wanted to poke my head in today and share my reading exploits. Let's do it!

Middle Grade

Left to right: Florence, Millie
(our protagonist), Claire, and
Gabby.

Dear Rosie

Written and illustrated by Meghan Boehman and Rachael Briner
Additional writing and coloring by Tom Pickwood
Graphic novel · 2023

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Seventh-grader Millie has the best friends in the whole world: Florence, Claire, Gabby, and Rosie, but when Rosie dies in a car accident everything changes. Rocked by grief, the remaining four girls struggle to move on. Millie barely understands her normal pre-teen feelings, let alone the messy ones left behind by Rosie, so she outruns her emotions by throwing herself into a mystery: a cryptic notebook abandoned at her family's laundromat. Could the clues in the notebook be related to Rosie?

Together, Millie and her friends embark on a heartwarming journey to heal from the loss of Rosie and end up finding more than they ever could have even imagined.

· · · · · ·

The aesthetic of this book is on point. The historic and welcoming town (inspired by a real town in Maryland), the town destinations from bagel shops to laundromats, the woodland animals who populate the story, and even the characters’ rooms and the details they hold—it’s wonderful to look at. The talking-animal vibe makes me think a little bit of Summer Camp Island, Animal Crossing, or maybe even Arthur.

Also, there’s something really compassionate in this story about four young girls navigating grief together, pushing through intense feelings, rash decisions, numbness, and a lack of consideration by others. Seeing the solace the characters find at the story’s end (and the visual metaphors used to represent it) is so satisfying.

That said, I don’t think the characters are as well-developed as I would like. The story felt a little rushed, and I noticed several plot holes (like the fact that one character wasn’t grounded for all eternity after something she did). And one character had an online boyfriend, and the messaging surrounding that seemed to be that it was unacceptable and horrifying and needed to be stopped, which I think is missing some important nuances.

Still, this story is a mood, and I’m here for it. And watching Millie’s interactions with an elder tortoise and supposed former strongman named Mr. DeAlba was just too good to pass up.

Left to right: Zoe, Mariana (our
protagonist), and Everly.

The Do-Over

Written by Rodrigo Vargas and illustrated by Coni Yovaniniz
Graphic novel · 2023

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Shy Mariana is looking for her chance to shine. She's having trouble making friends after a cross-country move to Ohio, plus, her dad refuses to let her help out at his hair salon, despite the fact that she's a social media expert!

So when she meets science whiz Zoe and creative maven Everly, and the three decide to start their own hair styling studio, she finally finds the friends—and the calling—she’s been searching for. The trio's studio, True Colors, is a smash hit, and the girls are having a blast. Not to mention, Mariana loves helping her fellow middle-school clients express themselves.

But with the town Harvest Fest on the horizon and a line of customers always at the door, the friends have to scale up quickly, and they don't always agree on how. Can Mariana find the courage to speak up for what she wants? And does True Colors have what it takes to succeed in business and friendship?

· · · · · ·

Oh my gosh, I loved this book! It looked so absurdly cute and fun that I figured, by Murphy's law, it was bound to disappoint me in some way. But actually, there’s as much craft and compassion here as there is heart!

There’s joy and sweetness on every page of The Do-Over, and in large part, that’s because of our delightful core trio of friends. Zoe is always ready to focus and make a plan for success, and Everly is overflowing with excitement and a love for self-expression. And Mariana, our protagonist, leans into her shy and quiet instincts to empathize and make space for other people’s emotions (a skill of introverts that I don’t think many people acknowledge). The chibi art style (reminiscent of Just Roll with It) and visual gags throughout the story add plenty of punch and giddiness to the girls’ exploits.

The publisher compares The Do-Over to Kayla Miller’s Click series, and I think one major similarity is how exciting it is to watch the girls create their own salon, in the same way it’s exciting to watch Olive make a short film in Crunch. The specifics of how the salon is decorated and marketed, and how the hairstyles are designed and executed, are surprisingly rich and totally fun. The girls come together to make a supportive, inviting space for each client, and watching their energy makes me want to go do some giant project myself!

Circling back to Mariana’s shyness, as a Socially Anxious Mess™, I related deeply to Mariana’s struggles with seeing people she wants to get to know, but having trouble taking that first step of saying literally anything at all to them. I also felt the book gets at something profound about how being our authentic selves and letting our interests and uniqueness shine is easier said than done.

And as the icing on the cake, Mariana’s wonderful family gets plenty of attention too. There’s tension between Mariana and her father and fellow hairstylist Carlos, but it never overshadows their loving relationship, full of jokes and empathy. And Mariana’s abuela and tío Víctor, who own a restaurant together, are the sweetest too. (I hope we see more of them in the sequel!) Also, I said Mariana’s family is the icing on the cake, and there is literal cake (or panetón) in the story, which makes me so hungry. I love the diverse cast and inclusion of Spanish dialogue in the book too.

One last thing—grief actually works its way into The Do-Over too, but not in the usual suffocating MG book style. Here, grief is a detail that influences characters’ experiences but doesn’t take over their lives or suck the joy out of the story. And with all the compassion and love that these characters radiate toward one another, it’s easy to see how Mariana and her circle can navigate even these most challenging of human emotions.

Random thoughts:

You know what I've discovered is even better than getting to read fun graphic novels? Getting to read fun graphic novels while cuddling next to my boyfriend. 🥰 (A whole lot has happened since I last posted, y'all!)

That's all till next week—happy reading! ✨✨

Comments

  1. So glad to hear about your happy times, Max. It's funny to me to read these reviews of serious topics, and the main characters are animals! Maybe that puts a layer between real human life & the challenges that go on for young readers. I don't know either one, have bookmarked them because you shared them! Have a great week, nice to hear from you!

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  2. Great recommends! I have added these to my gift list for a niece and nephew. I like how each of these titles handle some heavy topics. Thanks for posting and I've given you a late add to the MMGM lineup. Congrats on finishing your first semester of grad school!

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  3. I'm so glad you're going through happy times. And congrats on finishing your first semester of grad school. The Do Over sounds like a great story. I'm glad you loved it so much.

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  4. Sounds like some great things happening in your life! I love the cover and title of The Do-Over and it sounds like a great read, too.

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  5. I always enjoy the honesty of your critiques. It's going to be hard to write reviews, attend classes, work and have a NEW boyfriend! Carol Baldwin

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  6. Max, I don't even finish reading your entire posts before I go and put the books on hold. I'm excited that my local library even has these. The characters on the cover of Dear Rosie reminded me of these mice I'm busy sewing.
    It's delightful to read about your new relationship. Congratulations also on the completion of a semester of grad school!

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  7. Thanks for the recs. Nice to hear you managed to level up an already enjoyable experience like reading!

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  8. Both of these look like fun stories. I don't usually read GNs but you make me want to dive into these

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  9. Okay, Max. It's official: you are my go-to source for graphic novels. And I think you already are involved in a giant project...(ahem) grad school? And congrats on the new boyfriend! I couldn't be happier for you.

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  10. Dear Rosie sounds really cute, and The Do-Over sounds like it hits some important topics. Thanks for your review. Glad to hear life is going well for you. It's tough to have a life while in grad school, so good for you.

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  11. Yay for completing your first semester of grad school, Max!! Way to go! And yay for the boyfriend :) Happy for you!! Glad you are doing well. These books both sound great, and I hadn't heard about them yet, so thanks!

    Sue
    Book By Book

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  12. The Do-Over sounds awesome and Dear Rosie- sounds like a good read and one that kids who have suffered a loss will relate to also. Congrats on the new boyfriend. :)

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  13. Submitting your final paper for grad school and a boyfriend?! You have been busy. I hope you're having a wonderful time in graduate school; it's such a ton of work but I loved doing my History Masters.

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