Review: Things That Surprise You by Jen Maschari

Goodreads summary: 
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 want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.

My personal review: 
I laid down in bed last night thinking I was just going to read to page 170 so I would only have 100 pages to finish today. Well an hour and half later, I finished the whole book. 

I immediately felt this connection to the book that brought back so many memories of my middle school life. Part of me connected with Emily as well as Mina. I knew from the beginning exactly what Mina was struggling with, as I had struggled with something similar when I got into highschool. I had to be followed into the bathroom, I had to be monitored by teacher's daily, and I hated that I was struggling with it, but I also never realized how much it affected all of those around me.  I feel like the pressures that the girls all face in the story are going to be very relatable to for students 5th and up. It's an ever changing world, and girls especially are sadly put into this mold they have to fit in. I started telling my 4th graders last year that friends start to change in 4th grade and up, it's not a bad thing, but it's that people start to figure out who they are and what they stand for. It doesn't ever mean that that particular person won't hold a special place in your heart, but what it does mean is that you have to grow up and be comfortable with who YOU are and I think Jen does an absolute AMAZING job of teaching this theme throughout the entire story.

Just like the Goodreads summary mentions, Emily is dealing with her best friend, Hazel, changing and molding to fit into the Teen Scene society, the magazine type image of what girls SHOULD be, but Emily doesn't feel that way, she still loves her Unicorn Chronicle adventures, being in school, and staying a kid. 

The "D" word is something that was a tough subject for some of my students last year. I love how this beautifully describes the emotions that students go through when their parents are getting or are divorced. There's a moment in the story where I think all kids finally get to, but it does take some time, and I'm so glad that Jen included that in the story. 

Jen captured the characters so beautifully, so much that I immediately pre-ordered 3 copies for my Mock Newbery. This will definitely be a story I talk about at the beginning of the year of teaching 5th grade knowing that students are all experiencing and will experience the emotions captured in this story! 

Click on the picture to pre-order your copy NOW!: 

Amazon Affiliate Link

Jennifer Maschari will be featured on an author spotlight soon! Be on the lookout for questions students have about her writing and reading life. 


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