Do I have an exciting post for you!
My wonderful friends over at Algonquin Young Readers reached out to me about joining this blog tour and after seeing the synopsis for this novel I immediately knew I had to read it!
I haven’t read a middle grade novel in a while but this one reminded me why I absolutely adore this genre. It’s always so heartwarming and I think that everyone can relate to the messages and themes of a middle grade novel, no matter their age. This novel is all about finding yourself, your true self, and coming into that; a message that transcends time and age. It’s a deep and insightful look at a phase in adolescence that is on the cusp of young adulthood, and all that goes into that. And I loved this book! Below, I’ll be sharing more information on the novel as it releases next week and a review of the eARC I received!
It seemed that no matter how hard she tried, Brie couldn’t escape her feelings nor the mess they’d put her in. Not really.
Published: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
Series: N/A – Standalone
Brie felt disconnected from her faith and disconnected from her mom, and was that all because she was gay?
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
In the Role of Brie Hutchens… follows 8th grader Brie Hutchens as she tries to maneuver through her final year at her smaller, Catholic school. It should be smooth going except for a few key problems; she lied to her mom about a major event, her dad is now working at her school, her grades suck, and oh yeah, she thinks she has a crush on the class’ teacher’s pet; another girl named Kennedy. Nope. Not the normal school year.
I’m actually kind of struggling to find the right words for how much I enjoyed this book. It had some witty banter, I loved the soap opera elements throughout, I really loved Brie as a main character, and I especially loved the way the author weaves this coming of age story into a near rom-com with some family dynamics interlaced. It was really spectacular. Don’t worry! I’ll break it down further!
The Writing: This book nearly flies off the page in it’s ability to completely wrap you in the story. The characters are both flawed and personable, and there was never a moment where I felt disconnected from them, even the side characters like Parker or Kennedy. I basically read this book in two days because it flies by; I was so involved and engaged with the story it was nearly impossible for me to put down and all too easy for me to just binge completely. I was laughing, I was crying, I was cheering, and I was cringing. This book really gave me the full range of emotions.
The Characters: I think Brie was a phenomenal main character. She was really easy to relate to, even as I was a 23 year-old reader. She was flawed but not in a heavy way, just in the way that she was still in middle school and trying to navigate that space of being her own person and staying the same Brie with her family. I think we can all relate to that struggle, but for Brie it was a little harder. It was so amazing to be able to follow her relationship with each member of her family and see how that advances as the book moves on. I know Brie is the “shining star” of this novel, so to speak, but each character in this poignant story plays a vital part and is just as equally fun to interact with.
The Plot: This book moves really quickly but it doesn’t lack dimension or depth. It has all those typical school setting events like classroom chatter, sports events, the play, and even ends with the school dance. It’s all fun and still meaningful, and while the book is on the shorter side with less than 300 pages, you don’t feel like it was rushed or like you missed anything. There were a lot of deeper moments like when Brie talks with her teachers or when she and Parker have a fight, but these deep moments are given proper attention and depth, and I appreciated that the author gave us those as well as the funny and lighthearted times. It was a great balance.
I could really relate to Brie and her family. My mother and I used to watch soap operas together in the early 2000’s (when I was too young to really remember all the details) and then when I was in middle and high school we would watch paranormal shows like Ghost Hunters together, and that would be our quality time, our thing. Of course, as I got older and went off to college we lost that and it started to feel like we weren’t as close anymore without that common thread. I also had a sibling I was kind of disconnected from (do sisters ever get along, really?). The only real difference between my family and Brie’s was that I didn’t have the added stress of having to come out amid an overtly religious family.
All I can say is that I adored this book and I think it’d be a perfect read for Pride month, if not every month. It’s a middle grade with heart and sass and fun and family and really helps to highlight how important this genre is, especially when it comes to children who need to see themselves personified in the pages of a book. I cannot recommend this one enough.
P.S. there is a giveaway happening for this on Goodreads RIGHT now! You have 13 days to enter from the time this post drops on June 24th, 2020!
About the Author
Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.
Her debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON was a Lambda Literary Finalist and was awarded the Skipping Stones Honor Award for exceptional contribution to multicultural and ecological awareness in children’s literature. Algonquin has also acquired another novel from her entitled HOW TO BECOME A PLANET.
Novels by Nicole Melleby
As In the Role of Brie Hutchens… releases on June 30th be sure to pick up a copy for the young adult in your life! Snag a copy for you kids, your niece/nephew, or even just a copy for the Little Free Library in your neighborhood. As a matter of fact, be sure to request your library purchases it, so that others in your community can have access to LGBTQ+ literature like this!
Again, a major thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for my ARC and for the opportunity to be part of this tour.