Rummanah Aasi

Description: Charlotte Lockard and Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.
  Over the course of a week, Charlotte and Ben—online friends connected only by a Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school. You Go First reminds us that no matter how hard it is to keep our heads above troubled water, we never struggle alone.

Review: Erin Entrada Kelly's You Go First perfectly captures the insecurity, isolation, and fragile friendships in middle school. For most people online Scrabble game is just a game, but it is serves as a lifeline for middle schoolers Charlotte and Ben. Though they have  never met in person, Charlotte and Ben share many commonalities: both are incredible smart, lonely, and are suddenly coping with heartache in which they can't seem to solve on their own. Soon their online rivalry turns into real friendship as they communicate outside of the game. 
  The narrative is divided between Charlotte and Ben's point of view. Charlotte's father is hospitalized after experiencing a heart attack. Her best friend is drifting apart and moving towards a new social circle that is not inviting for Charlotte. Suddenly Charlotte's hobbies and interests are uncool. Ben is struggling to fit in a new school. He has a hard time finding peers who share his interests in encyclopedic knowledge of presidential history and reading. It is also not helping that his new project of finding friends by being a student council member has now placed a bully target on his back. His parents has also just announced their divorce.
  I loved both of these characters. The author knows her audience and uses key moments to elicit our heartaches and emotions along with these characters. I hated that they were struggling, but I also remember feeling the same way when I was a tween. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to reach inside the book and give both of them a hug. Foreshadowing facts lead each of Charlotte's chapters and information about sea stars is perfectly incorporated in a powerful scene about bullying. I loved the message of the book about resilience, how finding your people will take time, and things will be okay. Middle school is a rough time for many younger readers and I think this book will help them navigate all the unexpected challenges they will face.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying in the book. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
1 Response
  1. I love the premise of this book! It sounds like it will appeal to many teens who are struggling socially in middle school.

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