Sunday, August 3, 2014

Always Abigail - Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Title: Always Abigail
Author: Nancy J. Cavanuagh
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, August 5, 2014 (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 311 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: July 26, 2014
Finished: August 3, 2014

From the back cover:

Sixth grade to-do list:

  • Make the pom pom squad!
  • Get photo in the yearbook
  • With Alli and Cami, become the three most popular girls at Crestdale Heights Middle School!

Abigail and her two best friends are poised for a life of pom-poms and popularity. But not only does Abigail end up in a different homeroom, she doesn't make the squad. Then everyone's least favourite teacher pairs Abigail up with the school's biggest outcast for a year-long "Friendly Letter" assignment. Abigail can hardly believe her bad luck! As her so-called best friends and dreams of pom pom fame start to slip away, Abigail has to choose between the little bit of popularity she has left or letting it go to be a true friend. 

Abigail is starting grade six. Like every middle schooler's nightmare, she doesn't end up in the same class as her friends, leaving her to the mercy of a teacher with high expectations, and group work assignments with Gabby, the girl everyone else picks on. When she doesn't make the cheerleading squad, she is further left out, with her friends slowly distancing themselves from her. But as she gets to know Gabby, Abigail not only feels guilty for not standing up for her, but she even starts to like hanging out with her. She struggles with whether to ignore Gabby and continue to be lonely, or be a real friend to her and be further ostracized by everyone else.

This book was incredibly realistic from the point of view of a tween, it was like reliving teaching grades 5, 6, or 7 at any given time: sooooo much drama over the smallest things, lots of nasty social exclusionary behaviour that makes you fear for the future of humanity, and the huge crises of conscience over what kind of person you want to be compared to the kind of people you see around you. 

I like how Abigail has a slight touch of anxiety and makes lists to help reassure her of what needs to be done and how she reflects on her day. You get so much insight into her character that way, so I appreciate the first-person narration. I like how Abigail is very much your average girl (while still being very likeable) and Gabby is the more geeky outlier, so you get both ends of the personality spectrum in one book. 

If you have a tween girl in your life, you need to get her this book, it encapsulates so much of what they go through at that age and models the good decisions we really wish they'd make.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the locker motif, and the cute little washi tape additions are oh so cute.

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