HAPPY 08/08, guys!
Today's considered a lucky day in Chinese culture, so just imagine me bestowing all sorts of luck your way.
For MMGM, we're reviewing the lovely Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods. Read on for just why this beautiful, ordinary book got me out of my reading slump.
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Expected publication: August 16th 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Format read: E-galley via publisher
I've been in a bit of a reading slump recently, and I'll be honest: you could probably tell with my reviews. I liked everything I read, but it wasn't quite capturing my imagination as a genuinely GOOD read. Enter Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods.
Woods introduces us to Zoe, a young dreamer in Southern California. She lives a relatively ordinary life with her family, working at her family's nursery and hanging out with her best friend Quincy. However, being ordinary is actually something Zoe very much struggles with; Zoe always feels self-conscious, especially next to her brainy brother Harper, and her beautiful older sister Jade.
So Zoe invents a fantasy life for herself, where a cool older Zoe always mentally steps in at the most opportune moments, acting cool and impressing those around her. However, changes in her life means that Zoe begins appreciating what it means to be "just Zoe" in the here and the now...
There are so many things to love about this book, beginning with the fact that yes - Zoe is an ordinary girl, with very ordinary dreams. Even when she's daydreaming, her imagination creates what readers could consider to be perfectly normal scenarios, including: the ability to travel everywhere, say the right thing and basically be a cool, functioning adult.
Through these moments, Woods manages to soundly capture those burgeoning feelings of uncertainty and struggles with adolescence self-acceptance that we all experience, and acknowledges that yes, it can be a struggle to figure out where we fit in the world. But there are those that will always accept us and appreciate us, as Zoe finds out when she meets a new friend in the form of a scientist from the JPL. The realization that there are those out there like her drives her forward, and readers will likely feel a sense of nostalgia at remembering just what it was like when they first realized that there were those similar to them in the world.
Outside of Zoe's core journey, Woods also adds in secondary plot lines involving new friendships, family troubles and the realization that family (and family life!) isn't always perfect. Parents and educators will likely especially appreciate a specific plot line involving making new friends (and saying temporary good-byes to old ones), which beautifully showcases how young people are especially capable at adapting to life changes, and look optimistically to tomorrow.
All in all, a wonderful read and a fantastic reminder on what it means to grow up.
About the author:
Brenda Woods was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, grew up in southern California, and attended California State University, Northridge. Her award-winning books for young readers include The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond (a CCBC choice and a Kirkus Best Book), Coretta Scott King Honor winner The Red Rose Box, ALAN Pick Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, and VOYA Top Shelf Fiction selection Emako Blue. Her numerous awards and honors include the Judy Lopez Memorial Award, FOCAL award, Pen Center USA’s Literary Award finalist, IRA Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction Award, and ALA Quick Pick. She lives in the Los Angeles area.