I was thinking about Lana’s offer to share her mascara, that maybe it meant things between us would be all right in middle school, even if we didn’t agree on the usefulness of Japanese cartoon movies or Harlow Godfrey.
Anna and Lana. Best friends. Inseparable.
Then Lana turned and whispered to me: “These are our very last moments of elementary school. Can you believe it? Everything is going to be so different next year.”
“Middle school is not going to change me,” I whisper.
Anna is looking forward to doing all the things she likes during the summer. She and her best friend, Lana, are going to spend a lot of time at Putter’s Paradise and take her tortoises, Nachos and Salsa, to the park. Anna has everything planned, and it is going to be great! Except, Lana appears to have other ideas.
Anna does not understand why Lana thinks that attending middle school in the fall is such a big deal. Lana is excited about the possibility of dog-sitting in the summer so she can buy new clothes and get a “new look for middle school”. She is also excited about having her own phone and getting tips from another girl in her class regarding mascara and fashion - boring!
Anna fiercely tries to stick to her plan for the ideal summer, but no one is cooperating with her. Lana is busy with the dumb dog she is dog-sitting so she can’t be Anna’s tortoise transporter. To make matters worse, the tortoises’ original owner wants them back! So, when one of the tortoises gets sick, Anna simply must keep its condition a secret from her parents and get it to the vet by herself. After all, her parents may decide that the reason the tortoise is sick is because she keeps forgetting to clean their habitat. She loves them – but things just keep getting in the way of taking care of the stinky poop. Then her mother takes a liking to the stupid dog that Lana is dumping on them so she can go out with her other friends!
Interwoven into all this summer drama is the book entitled A Guide to Graphology that Anna found on the last day of school while cleaning out a classroom cupboard. After Anna analyzes Lana’s handwriting, she decides that her best friend “is coming across as pretty self-centered, not exactly the person I thought of as my best friend.” Since the book was right about Lana, Anna decides that she should go into business interpreting handwriting – but no one wants to cooperate with this amazing plan either!
Anna is a relatable heroine whose journey of self-discovery is wrought with self-absorbed procrastination and a touch of self-righteous anger. The first-person narrative helps the reader to see Anna as caring and careless. The secondary characters are well-drawn with their own backstories and unique motivations which help to move the well-paced plot forward in a believable fashion.
Anna will need all her analytical skills to save her friendship, her beloved tortoises, and the summer. She may even learn a thing or two about herself in the process.
Jonine Bergen is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.