A poignant, charming middle grade novel, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and Fish in a Tree. A beautifully layered story about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She's sort of excited…though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.
But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents' divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.
Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She wants to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Oh, the middle school years. I think most adults can agree that they were the worst. Well, for Emily Murphy, they're just beginning. Her best friend Hazel is convinced middle school offers a blank slate, that she -- and Emily, too, as "Em"-- can reinvent themselves. But what happens when Hazel's the one succeeding at the reinvention, with the new friends on the field hockey team, and Emily feels left behind? When all the changes -- her sister coming home from eating disorder treatment, her dad and his new significant other settling into a new house and making a room for Emily, etc. -- feel like too much, Emily turns to the same place where so many others have looked for answers, by ordering self-help CDs. If she just follows Dr. Franklinton-Morehouse's advice, everything can turn out okay . . . right? I *loved* following Emily in this journey of self-discovery as she navigates so many big changes. Maschari handles all of the book's topics with such sensitivity. She clearly remembers the moments that defined middle school, in all of their detailed glory, which allowed my heart to really ache for Emily. Evolving friendships, in particular, is something all kids will reckon with, and I loved how Maschari handled this theme. Highly, highly recommended for middle-schoolers and those about to enter those years in school and life. Tender, funny, and most of all, true.
Jennifer Maschari’s debut middle grade novel made me fall in love with this author’s storytelling and I was so thrilled to get an advanced copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU from the publisher! This is a beautiful book about belonging and growing up. “Maybe this is a thing to know about growing up: There are some things in life you’ve got to hold on to. And there are other things you’ve got to let go. The key is knowing the difference.” (quoted from ARC). I’m not sure anyone has an easy time in middle school and Emily is no different. Feeling left behind by a best friend who seems to have mastered the art of surviving middle school, Em feels as if she’s without an anchor. She’s definitely feeling left out as her dad settles into a new house with his new partner—and she’s not sure how to best support her sister as the older teen struggles with an eating disorder. To help manage it all, Emily turns to self-help CDs, convinced the answer lies in a stranger’s advice—because surely someone else must know better than her own. But Emily ultimately discovers that she holds her own truths; she is strong and brave enough to take her own good advice. It is this inner strength that Maschari paints so beautifully in the story. The book is honest and at times hilarious! Pick up this lovely middle grade novel to snuggle beside THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE. You won’t be disappointed.