Review Detail

Kids Fiction 218
engaging overall
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
THE OTHER, BETTER ME is a contemporary middle grade novel that follows a ten-year-old, Lola, as she explores herself and her family. Lola lives with her mother in a trailer, where she has a pretty good life. She often spends her evening with the elderly woman across the street, Ms. A, who used to star in commercials.

She has never met her Australian father, who she knows overstayed his visa and was deported before she was born. She wonders what he is like. When her teacher gives her the writing assignment of coming up with an Other Me, someone who is you but somehow different (in a different era, with something about your life changed, etc.), Lola decides to try to find her father. However, there are some truths that she will unearth about not only what her mother knew but also the way of the world.

She is accompanied by her good friends, Nick and Kiara, who are each adorable and a trip and a half. At the same time as the project, Lola is also dealing with her mother's illness and treatment for hyperthyroid and a mean girl at school, Mallory.

What I loved: There are some really heartfelt moments in the book that make it all the more appealing. Add that to the lessons about family, appreciating what you have, and trying to understand bullies, and this is a great middle grade novel. The main characters were all really well-crafted, and they truly felt their age. I also really loved Lola's many insights about people in her life and their motivations.There's also quite a bit of humor infused in the book that was really enjoyable.

What left me wanting more: In the scope of a child's mind, there were many things glossed over and not explained in ways that would be helpful for young readers. For instance, one of which was a parolee which is mentioned but not really addressed and a rather scary scene (for younger readers) with an elderly woman who dies. These are potentially big issues/plots, but they were tertiary and may have been better not to include without addressing them. Along these lines, the beginning of the book felt a little scattered, and I would rather that it was shortened and focused, as the beginning was hard to get into (though the second half is really great).

Final verdict: Overall, this was an engaging middle grade with some interesting themes. Although the first half was a little meandering, it pulled together into a heartfelt and interesting book. With more explanations and focus, this would be a five-star read. Would recommend for fans of contemporary middle grade looking for a book with heart and some humor.
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