KYLE FINDS HER WAY

Kirkus Reviews

Kyle can have a hard time telling the truth, both to others and to herself. Just starting sixth grade, she quickly falls for really cute Reed, who’s English. Unfortunately, just as quickly, one of her BFFs, Sheroo, also develops a crush on him. As a character, Kyle has a lot to recommend her. When an oversized bully starts tormenting Marcy, a girl with hearing aids, Kyle responds, although too aggressively. That gets her into much hot water, mostly with her mother, who is too quick to draw conclusions and too slow to recognize her daughter’s strong underlying values. Kyle’s school-assigned punishment is that she’s forced to join NAVS, a competitive problem-solving team. It turns out to be a perfect fit but results in even more conflict with both Sheroo and her mom. Kyle’s narration cleverly but unconsciously interweaves the wise messages she learns from tai chi in gym class with her growing self-awareness. Her conflicts with her friends and her parents are well-realized and believable, and her voice has a subtle edge of humor and self-deprecation that enlivens the presentation. Amusing, engaging, and honest, Kyle and her struggles and successes will be familiar to many middle school girls.

 

School Library Journal

Kyle is nervous about middle school, where, for the first time, she won’t be in homeroom with her best friend, Sheroo. She is relieved to meet new friendly faces on her first morning of sixth grade, but her optimism is dashed when she lands in the principal’s office for fighting a bully. Kyle’s principal recognizes her “crusading spirit,” however, and recommends a nontraditional consequence: membership in the school’s creative problem-solving club, called NAVS. Kyle is intrigued by the problem their team is assigned, and she feels proud of her positive contributions. Unfortunately, outside of NAVS, Kyle’s decision-making isn’t quite as positive; she begins to develop a pattern of hiding things from her parents. She is heartbroken when her mother forbids her to continue with NAVS. Even worse, Sheroo is mad at her over a boy. Luckily, Kyle has developed some new healthy friendships with peers who help her to atone for her mistakes and fix her relationships with her parents and her best friend. Told with wit and charm, Salom’s debut is sure to make readers think and laugh. While some characters are a bit one-note, the story is relatable and appealing overall. Bonus: the novel includes a positive and authentic portrayal of a character who is hearing-impaired. VERDICT: In the same vein as R.J. Palacio’s breakout hit Wonder, this charming middle grade debut will strike a chord with readers who enjoy realistic fiction with depth.

 

Children’s Literature

The first day of sixth grade can be daunting by any standards. New teachers, a different and usually bigger school building, and a lot of unknowns, from whether best friends will be in the same homeroom to what activities will be available. Kyle dons her blue fedora and jumps in with both feet. The first day finds her meeting a student from England defending a new classmate from big bully Ino, being sent to the principal, and suddenly at-odds with one of her best friends. As if that’s not enough, Kyle also purposefully takes the wrong school bus at the end of the day. Fortunately, her twin, fifth-grader “Meowsie,” brings his bike and skateboard to one of those stops so Kyle can get home. Although Kyle saw each decision as logical—for example, taking the bus gave her more time to interact with the new student, punching the bully got him to give the hearing aid back—her parents ground her. The year is off to a bad start for Kyle; but with her charisma and problem-solving ability, there is good reason to hope it will improve. Susie Salom’s debut novel features a quick-witted, good-hearted heroine. Questions of friendship, devotion, truth, communication, teamwork, and success are explored with humor and candor. The only disappointment with this appealing story is that it comes to an end. Highly recommended.

 

Publishers Weekly

In this empowering coming-of-age story, Kyle Constantini begins sixth grade secure in her friendships with pals Sheroo and Brooke, but complications quickly arise. Boy-crazy Sheroo develops a crush on a new student named Reed, who clicks with Kyle, and Brooke is acting mysterious about medical tests she needs. After Kyle impulsively hits classmate Ino for picking on a student with hearing aids, she is assigned to participate in NAVS, a competitive problem-solving group. Kyle winds up loving the group, but her parents pull their already-grounded daughter from NAVS after discovering that one of its meetings looks more like an unsupervised pool party. Kyle navigates these and other problems with help from wise teachers and insight from friends, eventually coming to better understand herself and the people around her. Debut author Salom gives Kyle a punchy narrative voice whose quirks can feel forced at times. But the novel offers some intriguing ideas about connections that transcend verbal communication, which should leave readers with plenty to think about.

 

Booklist

Navigating middle school on day one is daunting for any incoming sixth-grader, but Kyle Constantini is off to a particularly terrible start. She is in a different section than her two best friends; gets lost and is almost late for her first class; punches a class bully for nearly stepping on her new friend Marcy’s hearing aids; is assigned by the principal to participate in the school’s NAVS (Negotiating Actions and Values for Solutions) team; and rides Marcy’s bus rather than her own. Of course, she gets in trouble with her parents for these faux pas, and as new dilemmas crop up, she can’t seem to explain her way out of them no matter how honorable or naive her intentions have been. Resolutions are reached, and with each, Kyle matures. Sixth-grade female angst rings true in this debut novel. Salom has Kyle tell the story and uses fantastic dialogue to let this coming-of-age story shine. Middle-grade readers will relate to Kyle’s missteps and the frequently overwhelming environment of middle school.