Dear Student -- a middle grades novel about finding one's own voice


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

As Hazel is in middle school now, I am finding the novels about middle school interesting. Middle school is such a hard time for most kids. It is a time when they are truly trying to find their place in the world. They struggle to be heard and to be seen as well as to not stick out. Today I am sharing a book about that struggle. It is Dear Student by Elly Swartz.

From the Publisher:

When Autumn becomes the secret voice of the advice column in her middle school newspaper she is faced with a dilemma--can she give fair advice to everyone, including her friends, while keeping her identity a secret?

Starting Middle School is rough for Autumn after her one and only BFF moves to California. Uncertain and anxious, she struggles to connect with her new classmates. The two potential friends she meets could not be more different: bold Logan who has big ideas and quiet Cooper who's a bit mysterious. But Autumn has a dilemma: what do you do when the new friends you make don't like each other?

When Autumn is picked to be the secret voice of the Dear Student letters in the Hillview newspaper, she finds herself smack in the middle of a problem with Logan and Cooper on opposite sides. But before Autumn can figure out what to do, the unthinkable happens. Her secret identity as Dear Student is threatened. Now, it's time for Autumn to find her voice, her courage, and follow her heart, even when it's divided.

From Me:

Autumn has it extremely tough as she begins middle school. Her best friend (and basically only friend) moved across the country. Her father has joined the Peace Corps and is in Ecuador. Her mother, the local veterinarian, has moved the girls and herself into the apartment above the animal clinic to ease the strain of being the only parent around. Now shy, quiet Autumn has to start middle school. The story takes place in Cape Cod, so it also has the feel of a vacation spot. When Autumn first meets Cooper, she does not realize he is a new kid in the town versus a tourist. 

The two friends Autumn makes are extremely different. One is bold and loud and likes to be the center of attention. The other is quiet and mysterious. Throughout the book the reader learns about each of these friends as Autumn does. They are developed well. Logan is the outgoing, trying to get the attention kind of girl. Cooper is the quiet and trying not to be noticed kind of boy. Autumn is trying to figure out what is normal for a middle schooler and trying to fit in. Her father has told her to be courageous and bold and find her one thing. She decides her one thing could be the voice of Dear Student but doesn't tell any of her new friends she is even applying for it. When she gets it and is sworn to secrecy she struggles. Is her advice good enough? Is she being a normal middle school kid? 

Then comes the struggle with the new cosmetic company. Someone writes to Dear Student looking for advice when they discover the company tests cosmetics on animals. Autumn gives the advice to organize a march to protest the animal testing. Her friends however are on different sides. Logan shares with Autumn she is the one who wrote into Dear Student. Autumn feels a bit betrayed since Logan did not ask her personally for advice. Cooper worries that the protest will cause the company to shut down and thus have his mother lose her job--a job that took a long time to find. Before his mother got this job, they were staying at different friends' homes to sleep. Autumn is torn on which friend she should support. 

This book has it all. It has the worries of am I normal that everyone gets. It has the struggles with friends and even being betrayed by a friend. It has the anonymity versus voicing one's own feelings in person.  It has the struggles with parents and siblings and so much more. I love that Autumn struggles with finding her own voice and courage but does in the end. It is a wonderful book that kids will love! I hope you will check it out.