Middle School Misfits: The Stained Glass Tree - Book Review
About the book:
Drama defines middle school, especially for Jilly. Not that she likes drama. She’d rather walk invisibly through the hallways than have any eyes turn toward her. But drama will always find Jilly. With Mom battling depression, and the family’s financial struggles, they move frequently. As the family bounces from town to town, Jilly changes schools… a lot! And there is nothing scarier than coming into a new school smack in the middle of the semester. With her country accent… clothes that are far from cool… an odd, funny-to-pronounce family name (that earns her a terrible nickname)… Jilly feels like an outcast. A misunderstood misfit. Can she find a way to fit in while still being true to herself? Independent readers and middle school students will relate to the challenges and joys that Jilly and her schoolmates experience in this timeless tale about facing your fears, making new friends (and frenemies), and avoiding, as much as possible, those humiliating middle school screw-ups. Discussion points and tips are included.
This book touched on a lot of topics, and I think did a really good job of putting them on a middle school (or slightly younger) students level. Jilly felt like a misfit and an outcast for a number of reasons. Any one reason would have made her life hard enough… but in addition to constantly moving… she was dealing with her father dying, her mother suffering from depression, her step father leaving them, trying to be a good big sister, being poor, being bullied, and having a hard time making friends. While the author has piled on the issues for Jilly to deal with, I think she has made Jilly really relatable to the average middle school student. Her internal voice has a familiar feeling. She just wants to fit in… or at least fly under the radar until she has to move again.
I LOVE that the book points out that the school has a zero-tolerance bullying and harassment policy… but Jilly explains that what that really means is that she just can’t tell on her bullies. “In my experience, that just meant kids hid it really good so they wouldn’t get in trouble.” I’ve often noticed this to sort of be the case with zero-tolerance policies. Somehow it seems to make the bullies smarter… and the victims have to work that much harder to proved how they’re being treated. I like to this this isn’t the case… but with this author throwing it out there with Jilly… it sounds much more likely to be the norm.
While I’m not always a huge fan of authors including chapter summary and questions, I think this was done well. The questions were brief and pointed to the plot points while relating them to the readers own experiences. With the topics hit on in the story, I think it was important to give younger readers a little thought direction.
About the author:
Leona Lugan spent 10 years working with victims of crime and family abuse. She currently provides grant writing services, ghost writing, and consultation to nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Her educational background in communication, sociology, and guidance counseling has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics affecting today's youth. Her personal experience growing up poor in the Midwest, frequently moving from town to town, inspired her to write Middle School Misfits.