Friday, January 27, 2017

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young, 2016

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The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn't fit anymore. Christine navigates a year's cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.
(256 pages)

I don't read a lot of these "middle school drama" type books because, to be perfectly honest, I often find them to be annoying and unrealistic. What real thirteen-year-olds spend their entire lives revolving around puberty, boys, and changing friendships? Neither I nor my friends were ever like that, but we did run into those sorts of kids once in a while. I didn't really get them then, and I still don't completely get that mindset.

Anyway, though Hundred Percent was actually a pretty good book, my biggest issue with it was that the kids were way too "mature" (as the adults at school put it) for their age. They throw around words like "slutty" and "sexy," make jokes about "balls," and are always listening to "Rolling Stones" songs with very suggestive lyrics. And they're not even in middle school–they're in sixth grade! Eleven-year-olds are way too young to be thinking about any of those things.

If you forget the fact that Tink and her friends are so young, though, the story itself is a good one. I enjoyed watching her grow over the course of the novel as she struggled to define who she was. I can't say I'm a huge fan of her on-again-off-again childhood best friend Tracie, who tries way too hard to fit in with the cool kids (the "circle"), but one of the great things about the way the book is written is that by the end of the story I do understand and empathize with her decisions. There are several other side characters in Tink's class who are interesting, though probably more than were absolutely necessary–I started getting them muddled after a while. My favorite of these other characters was probably Bushwack, the nice, funny, and very uncool boy Tink likes a little more than Tracie thinks she should.

Some of the topics that come up are pretty serious ones. Tracie's mom has always been single, and there are whispers that Tink doesn't really understand calling her "a slut." The man she's dating is a twice-married guy with two kids, and Tracie spends quite a bit of the book romantically pursuing his son who's two years older than she is. There's a new boy at school who holds Tink's hand and tells her that he thinks she'd look attractive without any clothes on. Ick. The way all of these issues are handled is very tasteful, but I definitely wouldn't hand Hundred Percent over to an actual sixth-grader.

Honestly, I'm not really sure who the target audience for this book is. If you think it looks interesting, then you should check it out. Let me know if you do!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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