Review Detail

engaging middle grade fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
NAKED MOLE RAT SAVES THE WORLD tells the story of kit, whose name is lowercase because she was too small for an uppercase letter. Her mother was a famous singer whose anxiety now keeps her indoors, and her mother named kit after the tattoo she has that is keep it together (k.i.t.), a mantra which kit frequently repeats. Kit has a rare condition where she doesn't have any body hair, and her mother has fondly called her a naked mole rat.

Kit actually hates being called that, as she has told her BFF, Clem. Clem and her brother Jorge frequently hang out with kit, and they are part of an acrobatic family act. Until, that is, Clem falls onstage and is injured during the show The Most Talented Family in America. Since then, Clem has been different. Since then, kit has been having panic attacks, where she thinks she is actually turning into a naked mole rat and which she worries will become like her mother's.

They are all on the cusp of being teenagers, and this also brings its own challenges and changes. Navigating school and their home lives is hard enough- adding on the friendship troubles may be too much.

What I loved: The book portrays mental illness in a way that is understandable for the middle grade audience, and I think this was done well (depression, anxiety in particular). Kit and her friends are really relatable, and their struggles will certainly help children to empathize. The book is fast-paced and engaging to read. The plot carries forward easily and is certainly intriguing with many interesting bits about changes and challenges of growing up and dealing with friendship evolutions. Kit also acknowledges that hurt people hurt people, which is a real piece of wisdom that can be imparted on the reader and also help them to empathize with others.

What left me wanting more: While there is good representation and portrayal of people with mental illnesses, these are not really visibly treated (particularly for Clem who is struggling with depression and not sure how to reach out for help). It would have been great to see more about therapy or treatments, and/or at least to see Clem figure out a way to ask for help.

Final verdict: Overall, this was an engaging and fun read, perfect for the middle grade audience. Recommend for readers looking for a heartfelt book about growing up, dealing with mental illness, and navigating evolving friendships.
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