Review Detail

Becoming Brianna Featured
Kids Fiction 958
Public Speaking Anxiety
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
Like this author's Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzie, and Just Jaime, this newest highly illustrated notebook novel about Brianna's experiences with an upcoming Bat Mitzvah can be read alone, but is set at the same school and includes characters from previous books. Brianna, who is already dealing with the fact that her parents have divorced, has given in to her mother's desire for her to have a significant bat mitzvah celebration. The family is not terribly religious (Brianna's father is not Jewish), but Brianna understands that this is somehow very important to her mother and acquiesces even though she has a lot of anxiety about public performance. Not only that, but she is struggling to learn Hebrew, and is not confident about the speech that she has to write, especially since she leaves it to the last minute. She is also at odds with her best friend, Emmie, who is not only tired of hearing about the bat mitzvah, but also doubts that popular girl Zoe is really Brianna's friend. Zoe texts Brianna frequently, and makes an effort to talk to her and hang out, but the two don't really click, and Emmie feels that Zoe has heard rumors about the bat mitzvah party and just wants to be invited. Going back and forth in time from Brianna's preparations to the present day, we see a panoply of anxiety producing events through which Brianna must travel to prepare for her coming of age ceremony, and witness how she and the people who support her deal with them.
Good Points
Graphic and notebook novels are hugely popular among middle school readers, especially ones who find the text-to-illustration ratio comforting. These books do have some sections with narrative text, but have far more pictures than the average notebook novel (like Kinney's Wimpy Kid or Peirce's Big Nate). Libenson's comical illustrations and hand lettered text are a huge draw.

We have seen Brianna before; her mother does drama camps and encourages her daughter to be more forthcoming. We do learn some interesting information about the mother's own performance at her bat mitzvah, which sheds a lot of light on her motivations for encouraging Brianna.

Friend drama is a constant in middle school relationships, and the desire to make new friends, especially ones seen as more popular, is a source of difficulties. Emmie is more realistic about Zoe's motivations, and has a lot of cogent observations about how real friends interact. Of course, Brianna dismisses them. It is good to see that Brianna eventually understands Zoe's motivations, and has managed to make some new friends in the meantime. When she invites these new friends to her party, I thought it was very interesting how she negotiated with her mother how she would pay for their meals.

Freedman's My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, Weissman's A Length of String, and Rosenberg and Shang's This is Just a Test all cover Jewish culture and coming of age ceremonies, but since this is a key component to the middle school experience for many young readers, we can use many more books on the topic. Brianna does talk about some issues of faith, which is a bit unusual and very welcome. My own experience of confirmation class in seventh grade was very pivotal in my religious beliefs.

Readers who enjoyed Telgemeier's coverage of anxiety in Guts, Jamieson's trouble with fitting in in All's Faire in Middle School and Scrivan's Nat Enough will be eagerly awaiting this new installment of Libenson's work.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Phoebe Unfired
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
CONNECTING IS TOUGH WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN TOUCH ...
Thirty Talks Weird Love
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A 13-year-old girl growing up in Mexico is visited by...
Admission
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Lie. Cheat. Bribe. How far would you go to get...
Running
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president,...
City of Spells (Into the Crooked Place, #2)
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
City of Spells, the follow-up to Alexandra Christo's gritty YA...
Christmas Parade
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
A delightful Christmas board book filled with hilarious characters and...
Best Friend in the Whole World
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Roland lives a quiet life filled with books, music, and...
Bird Show
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Award-winning author-illustrator Susan Stockdale welcomes you to the Bird Show,...
Down Comes the Night
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw...
My Book of Feelings (My World)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Inspired by the Montessori method of education this unique board...
Sweet & Bitter Magic
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery...
My High School Rebel Boyfriend
 
3.8 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
He’s a rebel with a cause… to make my...

Latest Member Reviews

Thirty Talks Weird Love
 
5.0
"One day, Thirty, a strange woman comes up to thirteen-year-old Anamaria and tells her she's from her future. Anamaria lives..."
Admission
 
5.0
"‘Admission’ by Julie Buxbaum is a modern and definitely current read on a topic that has been in the news...."
Running
 
5.0
"‘Running’ by Natalia Sylvester is a trend-setting anthem for anyone who has ever wanted to be the change they wish..."
City of Spells (Into the Crooked Place, #2)
 
4.7
"CITY OF SPELLS is a stunning conclusion to an enthralling YA fantasy duology. The book plunges us into the story..."
The Project
 
4.7
"What worked: This is one intense psychological tale of a girl trying to reconnect with her sister after she joins..."
Sweet & Bitter Magic
 
4.7
"SWEET & BITTER MAGIC is a lush and enthralling YA fantasy filled with magic, pain, and love. In this world,..."
Sing Me Forgotten
 
5.0
"SING ME FORGOTTEN is an enchanting, compelling, and unexpected YA fantasy retelling of Phantom of the Opera. In this world,..."
The Valley and the Flood
 
4.3
"Rose Colter is adrift. She can't be where she was staying for the holidays but she can't go home yet..."
Perfect on Paper
 
5.0
"PERFECT ON PAPER is a delightful YA romantic comedy. Darcy has been operating Locker 89 at her school for years...."
11 Paper Hearts
 
4.3
"Reviewed for YA Books Central A super cute and sweet story. The story: A year ago, a..."
shine your icy crown
 
3.3
"shine your icy crown by amanda lovelace is a 129-page collection of contemporary poems. It’s the second book in the..."
The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)
 
4.3
"THE CASTLE SCHOOL (FOR TROUBLED GIRLS) is a story of healing and friendship. Moira has been cast adrift since the..."
Go the Distance
 
5.0
"Hercules proved he was a true hero and became a god like his parents, Zeus and Hera. Meg is thrilled..."
Follow Your Arrow
 
4.3
"FOLLOW YOUR ARROW is a heartfelt read about love, breaking up, and being true to yourself. CeCe has made a..."
Down Comes the Night
 
4.3
"DOWN COMES THE NIGHT is an intriguing, slow-burn YA fantasy. Wren is a healer in the military of her queendom,..."
A Dark and Hollow Star (A Dark and Hollow Star, #1)
 
4.7
"A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR is a slowly building YA fantasy that takes the reader on a wild ride through..."
Daughters of Jubilation
 
5.0
"It's South Carolina in 1962. Sixteen-year-old Evvie has two little sisters to take care of, a single mother, and finally..."
Dark Stars
 
4.0
"DARK STARS by Danielle Rollins is the third book in her series of the same name. It begins with Dorothy..."
Muted
 
5.0
"Denver loves music and dreams of life making it with her R&B group, Angelic Voices. When the group (Denver, Dali,..."
Reawakened
 
3.3
"My favorite thing about this book is the Egyptian elements. Reading Lily’s adventures in pyramids gave me strong Indiana Jones..."