This story about one girl’s reaction to another seventh grader’s disappearance reveals the internal impact of bullying.
Mallory Moss, a 12-year-old girl in a small Florida town, was the first to meet Jennifer Chan. Chinese American Jennifer moved from the Midwest into the house across the street during the summer. Mallory, who is Korean and implied White, knows that the new girl will have trouble once their predominantly White, Christian school begins: For one thing, Jennifer believes in aliens. Alternating between chapters labeled “Now” that are set in the present day and “Then,” describing events before Jennifer vanishes, the book dives right into the action as Jennifer goes missing in the first chapter. Texts start flying between Mallory and her friends as they worry about what Mallory calls “the Incident” with Jennifer that took place a few days before her disappearance. While the search for Jennifer intensifies, Mallory replays prior events with growing dread, looking for clues. The storyline slowly reveals cracks in friendships, with Mallory questioning her responsibility for many pieces of this puzzle. Keller successfully captures the emotional ennui of middle school tweens who are jockeying for social status, anxious and riddled with doubt, and yearning for a sense of identity. There is clearly enough hurt to go around, and this story provides one solution for getting through dark days.
A mesmerizing look at bullying and its aftereffects.(author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)