Review Detail

Kids Fiction 94
On growing up and speaking up
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
Jenae prefers being quiet and blending in. She doesn't mind that it means she's alone most of the time, especially when she still has her grandfather, brother, and mother at home. When a new student, Aubrey, comes to school and seems determined to be her friend, she doesn't know what to think. Keeping him at arm's length isn't so doable when they're paired up for a class debate on the proposed name change of their school. Speaking up has never been something Jenae is good at, and her fear of being seen might make her to lose the first friend she's ever had.

SOMETHING TO SAY captures the exact feeling of being different, and of both appreciating and valuing what makes you unique while also being kind of scared of it, especially in a setting like middle school where it seems like everyone's goal is to fit in. Kids with social anxiety will understand what Jenae feels each day and why it's so hard for her to speak in front of the class or an auditorium of people. It goes deeper than being just a little shy, and it takes more than just a little courage to speak up.

Jenae's growing friendship with Aubrey highlights ways you can grow with another person in your corner who can challenge and support you (and who can be in the same realm of 'unique' as you, so you don't feel quite so alone). One of the themes I love most about SOMETHING TO SAY is that it's never too late to speak up. If someone is doing something wrong, if someone has the chance to do something *right*, or if you yourself need to apologize or share your true feelings, you can speak up and do your best to bring honesty and heart to the table. It may not always work out, but sometimes it does. It's better to have taken the risk and been vulnerable when it matters than be silent when you have something to say.

The illustrations throughout the book gave me mixed feelings. The illustrations themselves are beautiful and do a fantastic job of capturing small details, like the references to Astrid Dane, and expression, like when Jenae is taking a selfie. However, Jenae is described as chubby multiple times (in a matter of fact way, not derogatory), but the Jenae in the illustrations is very thin. With such little fat positive body representation in middle grade books, it would have meant a lot to see the illustrations reflect the way the text describes Jenae.

Overall, SOMETHING TO SAY is a heartfelt, sincere, and important book. Jenae is someone you want to root for from page 1, and her journey can inspire courage in all readers to speak up when they have something to say.
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