Saint Ivy: Kind At All Costs
Thirteen-year-old Ivy Campbell has always been a good kid: She supports her soccer-star brother, bakes with her nana, and puts her friends’ needs before her own. So of course, Ivy is 100 percent supportive when her mom decides to be a gestational surrogate, carrying and giving birth to her friends’ baby. But when Ivy finds out the surrogacy treatment worked and her mom is pregnant—and has been for weeks—she’s shocked that she’s jealous and worried about what others will think. And most of all, she’s ashamed that she isn’t reacting to this news in the right way. The Ivy way. Ivy is determined to prove to herself that she’s just as unselfish as she’s always believed, and she gets the chance to do that when she receives an anonymous email from someone who needs her help. But the more Ivy dives into helping this anonymous person, the further she gets from the people she loves—and from the person who she wants to be.
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There's a lot going on in this book, but it was easy to keep track of the characters. I especially liked retired school principal Nana and her "morbid" talk about dying, insomuch as Ivy needs to learn the family recipes from her. The issue of surrogacy is one I don't think I've seen in middle grade lit, so that is a novel plot line, and handled in a perfect middle school way (How does this affect Ivy? What will people say? Will her mother still love her?) There's a nice mix of school and home scenes, and a lot of good details about local sites in Philadelphia. There are a fair number of diverse characters, especially when it comes to LGBTQIA+ representation. There is a scene with purported cheating that is extremely realistic and well done. The parents are both present and supportive. While Ivy is anxious, there are other things going on in the book to keep this from slowing down the pace of the book.
It is interesting to see how technology plays out in books-- most of my students don't check their e mail, so this would have seemed a little more realistic with a mystery text. E mails are harder to attribute, so I can see why this was the method of communication.
Books with kids who Do Things are always popular, and this had enough friend drama and other activities to appeal to a wide range of readers. This author's Up For Air is another good choice, and readers might also like Hurwitz's The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days, Kyi's Mya's Strategy to Save the World, and Gauthier's Saving the Planet & Stuff.
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