Monday, October 13, 2014

Middle Grade Review: Tell Me by Joan Bauer (2014)

In Joan Bauer's latest novel, Anna's parents are going through a rough patch in their marriage. While they take some time apart, Anna stays with her grandmother, Mim, in the small town of Rosemont. When out in the community one day, Anna sees something troubling: a young girl being held against her will. Unable to shake her gut instinct that something is very wrong, she rallies local residents to help locate the girl and bring her back home.

This carefully constructed middle grade novel features a sympathetic and realistic protagonist whose storyline is both plausible and uplifting. The story touches vaguely on the concept of human trafficking, but steers clear of providing any age-inappropriate detail, and at every turn, competent (but duly flawed) adults are available to provide support, attention, and assistance to Anna's crusade to help the missing girl. Side plots involving Anna's budding friendship with a horse, her aspirations as an actor and her own parents' marital difficulties contribute to the development of Anna's character and to the story as a whole. Joan Bauer's purposeful writing makes her message come across as sincere and honest, giving readers every reason to believe in the strength of community and the importance of even one small voice.

Tell Me is a perfect middle school novel, and is likely to appeal readers (especially girls) who have enjoyed books by Lisa Greenwald, Linda Urban, and Jacqueline Wilson.

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