Focused

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Focused
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Age Range
8+
Release Date
March 26, 2019
ISBN
978-1338185973
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Clea can't control her thoughts. She knows she has to do her homework . . . but she gets distracted. She knows she can't just say whatever thought comes into her head . . . but sometimes she can't help herself. She know she needs to focus . . . but how can she do that when the people around her are always chewing gum loudly or making other annoying noises?

It's starting to be a problem--not just in school, but when Clea's playing chess or just hanging out with her best friend. Other kids are starting to notice. When Clea fails one too many tests, her parents take her to be tested, and she finds out that she has ADHD, which means her attention is all over the place instead of where it needs to be.

Clea knows life can't continue the way it's been going. She's just not sure how you can fix a problem that's all in your head. But that's what she's going to have to do, to find a way to focus.

In a starred review, Booklist called Alyson Gerber's first novel, Braced, "a masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance." With Focused, she explores even further how, when life gives you a challenge, the best way to face it is with an open mind, an open heart, and the open support of the people around you.

Editor review

1 review
Rare book about child with ADHD
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
lea really wants to do well in school, and thinks it is her own fault that she doesn't get all of her work done and forgets to study for some things. It's hard enough to get out of the house in the morning, but if she would just buckle down and worked harder, she would do okay. It's hard to juggle school AND chess team, but she loves to play, especially since her best friend Red is on the team with her. When she fails several assignments, the school contacts her parents and suggests that Clea get tested for ADHD. Clea is angry-- she's not one of THOSE kids who cause disruptions and use ADHD as an excuse-- but her parents take her anyway to try to figure out why she struggles so much. In the meantime, Clea makes a new friend in teammate Sanam, and realizes that Dylan isn't as mean as she thought he was... and she may actually "like-like" him. There's a lot of drama about who will be able to compete in chess team tournaments, and dealing with a mean-girl teammate doesn't help, although the advisor, Mr. Lee, is very understanding. When the diagnosis comes in, Clea is given a number of coping strategies as well as medicine to try. The medicine doesn't help at the beginning, but after she gets used to it, she finds that her condition was also behind some of her problems with her friends, because she would get frustrated and angry quickly, and blurt things out before thinking. Clea learns to advocate for herself with her teachers, asking for her accommodations of extra time or a different environment to complete tests. She also gets used to budgeting her time and using logs and timers to keep herself on track. Things aren't perfect, but Clea feels much better about being able to handle middle school.
Good Points
This had some great characters-- I was a big fan of younger sister Henley, who was struggling with speech difficulties. This is something I haven't seen in middle grade literature much. The parents were very supportive, even though the father was out of town most of the week for work, and that was nice to see. Sanam, Red, and Dylan are all good characters, especially since they are generally understanding, but occasionally still get irritated with Clea. The most interesting part to me were the details about testing, medication, and coping strategies. Like this author's Braced, these are woven into the story in a way that doesn't slow it down.

Readers who are interested in chess will appreciate the details of the tournaments in which Clea plays.

It would be nice to see more books featuring characters with different challenges that don't portray the challenges as the worst thing in the world. Middle grade readers may have all sorts of problems, but they are generally upbeat, and seeing book characters deal with their problems in a realistic but positive way is great for all readers, whether they face a similar struggle themselves or not.
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4.0
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Great!
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
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N/A
!
Good Points
It had a great story plot and had no boring parts so it is a win!
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