The Best Worst Thing

208p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316257817; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316257831.
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—Right after 11-year-old Maggie and her two sisters return from the neighborhood Mini Mart, they learn it was robbed and the cashier shot and killed. The murderer fled on foot down Elm Street—Maggie's street! In the days following the crime, she imagines the killer in her house and checks the doors, under the beds, and in closets several times each night. Middle school brings more anxiety as she experiences other situations that are out of her control. Her best friend begins to hang out with the popular girls, a bully from her class is turning 12 and receiving his first gun (which she worries he may use on her if he gets mad enough), and her older neighbor who raises rabbits sells the "leftover" ones to the market for food. Maggie becomes increasingly dependent on performing routines and rituals to ease her anxiety; she counts to herself repeatedly while making sure things are evenly numbered. Lane interlaces a minor character, Gordy Morgan the bully, into the plot with finesse, offering a nuanced depiction instead of a mere archetype. The protagonist is able to use the strength she finds in a budding friendship to foster a positive change in her perspective of the world. Not only can this book serve as bibliotherapy for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder and high anxiety, but readers of all kinds will also find much here to ponder and discuss.
VERDICT Thoughtful characterization and relatable themes make this a strong purchase.

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