As one of the hosts of the weekly Middle Grade Lit chat on Twitter, I made a pledge to myself that I would make a concerted effort this year to try and read even more middle grade this year than I usually do. Thankfully, Canadian author Joanne Levy made this an easy pledge to keep with her debut.
Lilah is a typical 12-year-old. She's wrapped up in school, friends, and of course, boys. What she really wants is for crush Andrew Finkel to notice her and maybe even ask her to the seventh grade dance, but at the same time, the prospect of going out with a boy terrifies her.
One of the things I enjoyed about this book is how completely realistic Lilah is. (Despite having the ability to talk to ghosts.) She's smart, but not obnoxiously so, pretty, but not drop-dead gorgeous, and she has a small circle of friends, but isn't popular. She's a regular, likeable kid, and I would have liked to be friends with her when I was 12.
I also really enjoyed the way the author uses the ghosts, and especially the ghost of her Jewish grandmother and the prissy fashion designer who of course, bonds with her bubby and is equally full of advice. Lilah's bubbe reminded me a great deal of my own grandmother (who also had a talent for bonding with strangers), and I suspect that were I able to hear ghosts, that's pretty much what it would be like. While it would have been easy to make this a story completely about using her ability to help people (which she does), or to make it something Sixth Sense creepy, that's not what this novel is really about. It's about getting your first bra (and without spoiling it, this scene will make you laugh-out-loud), going to your first dance, kissing your first boy, and helping your hapless divorced Dad get back on the dating scene. The different ghosts all help Lilah understand something new about herself, and the people around her, and to navigate some hilarious, but often embarrassing stumbles.
Overall, Small Medium At Large is a fun and original read, and if you are a fan of books by authors such as Wendy Mass or Laurel Snyder, this is definitely a book to put in your pile!