Maybe It's a Sign -- New Middle Grades Novel Review


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

The lunar new year began last week. In the Chinese zodiac it is the year of the dragon. With the celebration of the lunar new year there are many different superstitions that people of different cultures hold. I shared some fun facts a few years ago about it in particular in the Chinese culture. Today I am sharing a book about a Chinese American girl who is dealing with the loss of her very superstitious father as well as being in middle school. The book is Maybe It's a Sign by E.L. Shen. Lunar new year seems like the perfect time to share this book. It is recommended for ages 10 to 14.

From the Publisher:

An uplifting middle-grade novel about loss, luck . . . and deep-dish chocolate chip cookies—perfect for fans of King and the Dragonflies and The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.

Seventh-grader Freya June Sun has always believed in the Chinese superstitions spoon-fed to her since birth. Ever since her dad’s death a year ago, she’s become obsessed with them, and believes that her father is sending her messages from beyond. Like how, on her way to an orchestra concert where she’s dreading her viola solo, a pair of lucky red birds appear—a sure indication that Dad wants Freya to stick with the instrument and make him proud.

Then Freya is partnered with Gus Choi, a goofy and super annoying classmate, for a home economics project. To her surprise, as they experiment with recipes and get to know each other, Freya finds that she may love baking more than music. It could be time for a big change in her life, even though her dad hasn’t sent a single sign. But with the help of her family, Gus (who might not be so annoying after all), and two maybe-magical birds, Freya learns that to be her own person, she might just have to make her own luck.

In Maybe It’s a Sign, E. L. Shen cooks up a deliciously voicey, comforting family story sweetened with a dollop of first romance, a dash of whimsy, and heaps of heart.

From Me:

Freya is a seventh grader who is trying to figure out her life. Her mother and older sister are always arguing, and her father is no longer around to help ease some of the tension between them. Her father died of a heart attack and the family is struggling to get along without him. Freya is a point in her life where she wants to make some changes but is not sure she can. She fears she will lose a connection to her father. She also begins to believe many of the superstitions and signs her father believed in and looks for them. She even sees a pair magical red birds, which she relates to her father's superstitions--red and the number two are lucky. Then add in regular middle school things like friends starting to date, getting stuck as a partner for a project with the annoying boy who keeps spilling things on her and such. As the story goes, she realizes she doesn't want to play the viola any more and that she loves baking. There are two recipes at the end of the book including one for Chinese cookies which would be a fun way to celebrate the lunar new year!

This book is well written. It pulls the reader in and shares Freya's grief, confusion and other emotions. Although some of her life issues have to do with her situation many can be related by any middle schooler. Middle school is a time of change. Friends change, dating often begins, and what one likes or doesn't like doing can change. These are things that are happening to Freya while she is dealing with her loss and family issues. I love that the person who seems to help her the most is the boy who she thinks is so annoying. I also love that she and her sister are able to come together and help one another. It helps both of them to see things through the other one's eyes. Then Their mother also comes to many realizations and steps into help each of them. It is such an interesting story that I can see kids enjoying. There were points where I cried but other times where I was laughing with Freya. I hope you will check it out.