Ivy Aberdeen’s life was already chaotic between her newborn twin brothers, her older sister’s odd behavior, and Ivy struggling with her own confusing feelings for girls that she can’t quite name. But then her family home is swept away by a tornado and Ivy’s world is completely upended without a home and without her trusted notebook filled with her secret drawings of girls holding hands.
That is, until the drawings from her lost notebook begin to show up in her locker, along with a note telling her she should talk to someone. Ivy doesn’t know what that note means, because obviously she’s fine. Ivy has to figure out who has her notebook and get it back, and maybe along the way she’ll figure out what those feelings even mean.
This is such a sweet middle grade story. I never knew that Ashley Herring Blake, author of the Delilah Green Doesn’t Care romances, wrote books for younger audiences! It has a lot of her charm and a love of quirky small towns, but there’s something about the formula that I find clicks even more when it comes to middle grade. Of course, I might be biased because I adore middle grade, perhaps because the explosion of LGBTQ+ middle grades are the very sorts of books that I wish I had access to when I was a kid. Luckily, they exist now, and the list is ever-growing!
Ivy is a character that feels so real as she struggles with her simultaneous love of and frustration with her family, her sometimes annoyance with her best friend, and the way she makes mistakes and oversteps and miscommunicates. All of this is written with such compassion for how hard it can be to figure out your place in the world. I also want to say that for a book that features deep grief in the wake of a natural disaster, it has such charm and humor in places that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
So oftentimes a coming-of-age focuses on romance as the way for a person to figure themselves out. That certainly exists—it’s partially about Ivy’s struggle with her feelings for the new girl in class, after all—but it’s also about how families evolve and grow, how you can find community in unexpected places. It’s a lovely testament to the bravery and power in being true to yourself and I would highly recommend as a heartwarming read for a bit of hope.
Trigger warnings: natural disasters, childhood illness, grief, references to homophobia