Review Detail

Kids Fiction 289
Learning to be yourself
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Ali Sloane is tired of moving. She's changed schools and houses/apartments so many times that she can't claim any one place as home. Ali and her parents, one of whom is a Copycat possessing the ability to shapeshift into any person or animal, currently live with her great-grandmother in the town her father grew up in. It's strange being in Saint John, a place brimming with fog nearly every day, but Ali soon finds there's plenty to love about living with her great-grandmother in a new-to-her town. At school, Ali follows her standard protocol: be nice, fit in, and go along with whatever anyone else says. Her goal is always to blend, even if it means not being herself. When Ali finds out her cousin, part of the estranged branch of the Slone family, also goes to school there, she is eager to meet him. Especially when she suddenly gets the Sloane Copycat powers herself. In order to break the family feud and master her newfound abilities, Ali will have to seek answers in the past and learn to be herself in her present.

THE COPYCAT is a beautifully written story about a girl deciding whether or not to be authentic to herself. I loved the strange magical element of Ali and her father being able to shape shift. While the story does present some history and theories as to why they can change, it doesn't focus too much on the logistics. MacKnight layers the magic in a way that feels natural and even usual in Ali's life, a significant feat in a book that is largely grounded in contemporary, realistic life. There is a well-executed balance of Ali understanding the magnitude of what Copycat powers can do if used for greed or self-interest without going so far down into the morality of great power that you forget the primary focuses of the book: family and being true to yourself.

Ali is a relatable protagonist. It's easy to imagine how badly you might want to fit in when you've moved around so much and just want to avoid being bullied or ostracized. Ali is often lonely in all the new places, so when she does start to make friends at Saint John, it takes her a while to realize that pretending to be something you aren't isn't the best foundation for true friendships. I adored the secondary characters like Cassie and Emily and Ali's journey in both getting to know them and eventually letting them know the real her, the one who doesn't agree to whatever they say.

Middle grade readers who like their fiction realistic but don't mind a touch of magic will find a new favorite in THE COPYCAT, complete with a heartwarming cast of characters, themes of friendship and family, and more.
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