Meow or Never

Author: Jazz Taylor

Publisher: Scholastics Inc.

Release Date: Jan 5/21

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Scholastics Inc. for an eARC of this book.

I really enjoyed this story about Avery, a girl with social anxiety who signs up to be part of the school play to be around her crush and to calm her dad’s fears about her panic attacks, and is horrified to discover she is cast as the lead role. Avery has to first deal with her difficulty speaking to others, and then must figure out how to sing and act in front of an audience, with only 6 weeks until the play. Fortunately, she makes some friends along the way that support her, including a cat who lives in the closet of the school’s theatre. But will it be enough to help her get up on stage and perform the night of the play?

This is a very cute cover, but there’s a lot of depth to this book. I really appreciated that it’s a story about a Black girl written by Black author. I liked that Avery’s crush is on Nic, the prettiest girl in her school who also becomes her friend. I also felt the anxiety representation was very good. Avery’s friends learns to help her with her panic attacks, and offer support rather than judgment. We clearly see that her physical reactions are not a choice, and the process of preparing herself for the play feels very realistic. I especially like the resolution of the story. Avery works hard to face her fears, and many of the techniques she uses will be helpful for young readers. I loved watching her persistence and determination, continually making steps toward her goal even when it’s hard.

I think this is an excellent addition to middle grade collections, and I hope it’s available in Scholastic flyers so it reaches a larger audience.

Recommended: Gr. 5-7

Breakdown

Author: David A. Robertson

Illustrators: Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: Oct 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

What an excellent YA graphic novel! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book, as I LOVED The Reckoner trilogy by author. This book continues that series, but it’s now in graphic novel format, with incredible illustration by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk.

Cole has returned to Winnipeg, along with Eva, to figure out what’s going on with Mihko Laboratories, but the trauma that he experienced in Wounded Sky First Nation has come with him. He’s experiencing PTSD, and the panic attacks and hallucinations that go along with it. His mental health is also affecting how he feels about being a “superhero”. On the other hand, Eva is really coming into her own as a confident, empowered Indigenous female superhero. She supports Cole, but also realizes she can also go out on her own without needing him by her side. Together, they are trying to figure out what’s going on in Mihko’s building, but true to form, the author leaves us with a cliffhanger to wait and see what’s going to happen to the characters next.

The ownvoices mental health representation in this series is one of my favorite aspects of it. Cole is a character whose struggle with anxiety and the trauma from his past is honest, raw, and extremely relatable to many. To see a character that’s powerful even though he has mental health issues is inspiring, and I love how complex and real he becomes when he’s seen as imperfect. There are scenes where Cole meets with his therapist, and discusses his problems and the need for him to go back on antidepressants. This open discussion of needing support is extremely positive.

Watching Eva develop in this book is also a highlight, as she becomes a real role model with her compassion and strength. Although I certainly missed Choch from the original series, I did enjoy revisiting other characters, too, and Brady’s relationship with Dylan provides Two Spirit representation that adds to the book’s appeal.

I highly recommend this book for young adult collections, and suggest you check out The Reckoner trilogy if you haven’t read it yet.