Confusion is Nothing New

Confusion is Nothing New

 
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Confusion is Nothing New
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
May 29, 2018
ISBN
978-1338209990
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Ellie Magari just learned that her mother is dead. Perhaps that would be sad if Ellie had ever met the woman. Exactly who was Ellie's mom? Does it even matter that she's gone? Perhaps a dead mom can still help Ellie figure out what it means to be a girl in the world today. Either way, Ellie wouldn't mind a role model beyond her master chef Dad.

Fueled by the bighearted sounds of '80s rock and roll, plus large doses of Cyndi Lauper's girl-power joy, Confusion Is Nothing New is about friendship, family mysteries, and the perfect pizza. It's also about fathers and daughters and girls who understand that it's good to make things, but breaking things is okay too.

In fact, sometimes breaking things is required.

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Luckily, Lauper is on YouTube

I'm old enough to know the song Time After Time, but younger readers may need to look up Cyndi Lauper on YouTube so that they can be introduced to her work!

Right before a marching band performance is not a great time to be told that your mother has passed away, even if you have never met her, so it's understandable that Ellie is a bit peeved with her father. When her best friend Daniel has a mishap with his piccolo during and ends up hitting Ellie in the head with the instrument and then losing it under the bleachers, the two friends don't take kindly to being yelled at by their band director, Mr. DeGroot. Things escalate, and Ellie throws her school glockenspeil at the teacher. A classmate, Anya, has videotaped the whole thing, so after talking to the school principal, Sister Stephanie (who went to school with Ellie's parents), Ellie and Daniel hunt her down to get her to take the video offline. It's bad enough that DeGroot was fired and Ellie has to pay for the instrument, without the video going viral! Sister Stephanie's brother, who is a rock musician who's had some success, fills in for the fired band director. Ellie wants to know more about her mother. She's not getting information from her father, a cook at the local college who wants to have his own food truck, because he is still hurt and angry, but she manages to find out quite a lot about her mother with the help of her friends. Her mother's band, Cyndi Lauper Isn't Dead, is coming to the university, and Ellie looks at this as an opportunity to get to know a little about the mysterious woman who gave her life, big feet, and frizzy hair.

Good Points
Acampora's Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face and How to Avoid Extinction are great upper middle grade humorous tales, and this newest books upholds this tradition! This is funny, fast paced, and very upbeat considering the major plot of the deceased mother. I thought the father's seemingly callous attitude toward the mother was realistic but also well explained in the end, and Ellie's emotions about her death were convincing as well. I appreciated that Acampora utilized Lauper and other 1980s women's rock bands in a fun way AND explained the time lines so they fit Ellie's parents appropriately.

Ellie is a typically conflicted teen who is more interested in her own drama and activities than in investigating a parent she never met. Her friend group was amusing and supportive, and the way they helped Ellie was sweet. There were a lot of involved parents as well, which is a bit unusual for characters in 9th grade, but very much appreciated.

Do middle grade students still dream of having their own band? Those who have read and enjoyed Perez's The First Rule of Punk, Korman's Born to Rock, Rue's Rock and Roll Rebel, or Triana's Back Stage Pass will enjoy this family drama with a healthy serving of rock and roll.
There need to be more middle grade novels with classic rock songs as the titles. I don't know how much it would amuse the target demographic, but it would make a whole lot of middle aged librarians and parents happy!
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