In the Role of Brie Hutchens…

Algonquin. Apr. 2020. 272p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616209070.
Gr 6-8–Eighth grade is proving to be a difficult year for Brie Hutchens as she negotiates crushes, play tryouts, friendships, parental tensions, awakening sexuality, and a need to do better on her schoolwork in her small Catholic middle school. Brie wants to be an actress like the ones she and her mother watch in the soap operas every afternoon, to land the lead role in the school play, and to attend the Theater High School next year. But her father has lost his job and works as a custodian in her school in return for tuition, and her mom has to work even more hours to help make ends meet, so that school may be out of reach. When she is caught looking at suggestive pictures of a pretty soap-opera star, Brie lies about being chosen to crown the Mary statue during the very important May Crowning Ceremony at her school. She knows that the honor will probably go to someone who excels in class—someone like the lovely Kennedy. Unlike her best friend, who crushes on every boy in class, Brie finds herself attracted to Kennedy; this causes her to wrestle with very confusing emotions, to have some tense conversations with her parents, and even to question her Catholic faith. Her struggles and those of her family seem authentic, their interactions realistic, and Brie’s desire to be really seen and loved for who she is will ring true with many middle school readers.
VERDICT Although not all readers will identify with the Catholic school experience, they will empathize with Brie as she strives to find herself, comes to terms with her sexuality, and navigates the social maze that is middle school.

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