Review Detail

charming and engaging middle grade contemporary
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS... is an engaging middle grade contemporary novel about coming out. Brie dreams of being an actress in one of the soaps she and her mom watch each day. She wants to apply to go to an acting high school in the area, but this may have a price tag too big for her family following her father's job loss. She currently attends a Catholic school, where she is an eighth grader.

At her school, she feels a disconnect from her faith, mainly because she is realizing that she is gay, and she isn't sure what that means for her religion or her relationship with her parents. When her mom walks in on her viewing some scandalous photos of one of her favorite soap stars, Brie tells a lie that she knows will distract her mother and make her proud. However, the lie builds, and when the truth she is trying to hide appears, it seems it is swept under the rug. Brie would do anything to have her family accept and love her for all of her truths, but she is not sure how to get there.

What I loved: This middle grade book is really a great coming out story. It does not all go smoothly, and Brie has a lot of challenges that she has made for herself, but it's truly heartfelt and genuine. Readers who may be dealing with the same situation will find pieces of themselves in Brie's story. The process is all too real (over and over again) with reactions running the gamut. Brie is passionate and still learning, and her story is overall full of angst and charm.

There is also an age-appropriate romance, and I liked how this was done. It's a tough time in life to be figuring out romantic relationships in general, and it all felt very real. The book gives a lot of hope that is fantastic for young readers that this book targets.

There are also the aspects of parent relationships that will speak to middle grade readers. Things are changing, and children begin to realize more about their parents- their imperfections and the ways that they impact their feelings. Brie has a lot of feelings about both of her parents, who she relates to in different ways. She is also beginning to have a concept of money and its importance that seems age appropriate.

Final verdict: Overall, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS... is a captivating and charming middle grade contemporary. Would recommend for fans of DEAR SWEET PEA, THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK, and A SONG FOR A WHALE.
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