The Real Us by Tommy Greenwald (review)
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Reviewed by
Greenwald, Tommy The Real Us; illus. by J.P. Coovert. Roaring Brook, 2017 [256p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-171-5 $13.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-172-2 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-7

Calista is the popular pretty princess; Laura is her overweight former best friend; Damian is the semi-new kid whose jacket-wearing habit hides a hyperhidrosis problem that leaves him soaked with sweat for most of the day. The start of middle school brings surprises for all three of them, starting with Calista’s first experiences with imperfection: she gets a nasty pimple, the makeup she uses to conceal it makes her break out in hives, and then an accidental smack on the nose (from Damian) makes her face swell up, all this just before the big First Week Dance. What sounds like the setup for a tale about the comeuppance of the shallow is actually a smart and age-appropriate exploration of interpersonal dynamics, self-image, and behavior as narration shifts among the three middle-schoolers. Characterization is sympathetic and believable: Calista’s actually a nice, athletic girl (with nice, sane parents), but her popularity is starting to ease her down a less admirable road. Laura and Damian are full people with their own strengths, blind spots, and defensive missteps, not just teachable encounters for Calista. This will be a natural step up for Andrew Clements fans or an interesting pairing with Hurwitz’s Ethan Marcus Stands Up, reviewed below. Reviewed from an unillustrated galley.

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