Wednesday, June 8, 2022

JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE-- A Book Review by Guest Blogger, Elliot Kurta

When I read Greg Pattridge's review of Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone, I recognized a book that Elliott, my teen guest blogger, would probably enjoy. As you'll see in his review, I was correct.

                        


Combining aliens, middle school, and bullying, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller is an insightful book with an important message for tweens. Overall, the book handles uncharacteristically mature themes, such as bullying, being true to yourself, and making up for past misdeeds. However, this isn’t to say that the target audience won’t be able to understand or acknowledge them. Instead, Jennifer Chan is refreshingly honest while still relatable.

Mallory is the first student at Gibbons Academy to meet the new girl, Jennifer Chan. Over the summer, Mallory is drawn to Jennifer’s self-confidence and earnestness, and the two of them become friends. But once school starts, Mallory is reminded that just being yourself isn’t cool, and if she wants to stay popular she’s going to need to start acting the part. Jennifer, on the other hand, is having even more trouble fitting in. She’s made fun of for believing in aliens, copying the other girls’ haircuts, and being… well, different. As the school year is ending, Mallory and her friends decide that Jennifer needs to be put in her place, for once and for all. The next day, Jennifer has disappeared, and Mallory knows that there are only two possible explanations. Either she was abducted by aliens, or she ran away because of Mallory.

With each chapter, and alternating between the past and the present, Mallory unravels the truth. Using help from two old friends, she reads Jennifer’s journals and retraces Jennifer’s path the day she disappeared. However, finding Jennifer leads to a revelation that Mallory doesn’t want to accept. Unless Mallory can make amends and acknowledge her mistakes, the only lead as to where Jennifer might be will disappear.

Bringing to light what it’s like to be a bully—and what it’s like to be bullied—in middle school, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is packed with emotion. Mallory, both the hero and villain of this story, is unsettlingly relatable, even as she balances peer pressure and her conflicting emotions. Unlike many young protagonists, Mallory’s age is apparent, even as she struggles to bear the guilt of her actions and tries to repair her mistakes. Although the entire book is narrated from Mallory’s point of view, each chapter ends with one of Jennifer Chan’s journal entries, giving a better perspective on the eponymous character’s life and personality. Additionally, Mallory is just one of many remarkable characters, including WASPish Reagan, analytical Ingrid, and arrogant yet persuasive Pete.

Even though this middle-school novel might seem unrealistic, Tae Keller stays well within the realm of possibility. Although aliens and their existence, or lack thereof, are a central part of the book, they’re not presented in a polarizing way, but instead with a “maybe” and a shrug. By the final page, however, the surprise ending is revealed, with a conclusion that’s equally informative and open-ended. With a message of accepting and being kind to others, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is perfect for today’s modern society; especially since peer pressure and cyberbullying can make kids feel lonelier than ever.

One of the reasons why Tae Keller was able to write such a compelling story has to do with her background. Despite the scenes throughout the book, the most touching pages have to be the afterword. Tae Keller reveals that she was bullied during middle school and that this book is the cumulation of her journey of self-healing.

In conclusion, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is a stunning, multilayered book with an important message for pre-teens everywhere. Every aspect of this book is soaked with meaning—even the title—which hints at Jennifer Chan’s belief in aliens and her own subsequent alienation. Written for anyone who’s ever felt conflicted between the right or wrong thing, or for anyone who’s ever been bullied, Jennifer Chan will take you on a tumultuous, heart-wrenching journey.

                                                        


If you're not familiar with Greg's great blog, please check out his Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts.





15 comments:

Danielle H. said...

This book is also high on my list. Thank you for the review!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Danielle. I wish I had the time to read all of the books Elliott reviews!

Rosi said...

Thanks for a wonderful review, Elliott. Beautifully written. This book is at the top of my TBR list, and I hope to get to it very soon.

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a fantastic story. I hope I can get to it this summer.

Valinora Troy said...

This sounds a very layered book with a complex protagonist, but framed suitably for tweens, and it sounds really good! Thanks for the super review, Elliot - I'd love to read it!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Valinora and Natalie. I wish I had all the time in the world to read books too!

Patricia T. said...

What a stellar review. Elliott organizes his reviews in such a unique and understandable manner. It's so beautifully written. He draws readers to what they need to know about the story. This really sounds like a great read! Thanks Elliott!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Patricia. I'm sure Elliott will appreciate your kind comments!

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Wow, Elliott—this is such a compelling review! I've read Tae Keller's When You Trap a Tiger and know she is a very skilled writer, but it's good to know that this one by her is worth trying as well. Thanks so much for the wonderful review!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Max. I'm fortunate to have Elliott as my teen reviewer!

Greg Pattridge said...

Excellent review, Elliott! You brought out the most compelling features of the plot and doing so will pull potential readers to giving it a read. I hope a few more of my recommendations make it your way. Thanks for being a part of MMGM.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for encouraging Elliott, Greg. And yes, I keep forwarding book reviews to him from MMGM!

Maria Antonia said...

I like the connection between aliens and the alienation of the protagonist. Interesting. Thanks for the review, Elliott!

Elliott Kurta said...

Thank you, I really enjoyed getting to read this novel. I'm glad all of you liked my review.

Carol Baldwin said...

Very good point, Maria!

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