Expected publication: February 6th 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
Alternating perspectives reveal what really motivates each character to win. And Peter’s memos and “business tips” as well as excerpts from Rachel’s melodramatic novel-in-progress generate fresh hilarity and tension at every page turn. Payback on Poplar Lane is a pitch-perfect comedy with heart, reminiscent of your favorite classic middle-grade series.
Author Margaret Mincks introduces us to Peter and Rachel, two very different young teens who live on Poplar Lane. Peter is drive and focused on business, while Rachel is hesitant and more uncertain about her place in the world. A chance encounter has Rachel initially joining Peter at his business as his intern, before circumstances has Rachel starting a competing empire next door.
What's equally charming and brilliant about Payback on Poplar Lane, is Minck's ability to showcase how youth learn from their family, and apply it to the order of their own lives. We quickly learn that both Peter and Rachel are struggling with their own issues, and their focus on business and defeating each other, is in many ways, part of how they choose to cope.
Mincks handles Peter's story particularly well; while he comes off as brusque and obsessively driven to friends and neighbors, Minks carefully lets us into the desperation Peter struggles with, as he tries to reconcile the fact that his father no longer has a job, and worries about what that might mean for the family. It's a thoughtful examination of how a young tween deals with crisis, and his various solutions will likely cause laughter and tears as readers that will recognize a little bit of themselves in Peter and his mechanisms.
While Rachel's story is far less intertwined with the actions of her family, it's no less thoughtful and detailed. Mincks touches on Rachel's struggles to find herself in an environment where she's surrounded by peers who naturally attract more attention, and how it's a trial-and-error situation, particularly as Rachel embarks on an idea that nets her both immediate popularity, but also contains eventual ramifications. Rachel's ability to grow from the mistakes of that process, and her thoughtfulness (and humor) in rectifying her mistakes, makes her journey an immensely satisfying one.
Though both young tweens struggle with the learning process on how to be stronger and overcoming their fears, they both come out of their journey better for it. I can't wait to return to Popular Lane, and I suspect all of you will feel the same.
About the author:
Margaret Mincks grew up the second oldest of eight kids. When she wasn’t swimming, acting, making up slightly disturbing songs, or filming B-movie parodies with siblings and friends, she was writing and illustrating stories. After graduating from the University of Virginia, she moved to Chicago to perform improvisational comedy with the iO Theater. She later worked at Spider, a literary magazine for six- to nine-year-olds, as an editor. Margaret has also written for children’s nonfiction series like Ripley’s Believe It or Not. She now lives in Florida with her husband, young daughter, and her Staffordshire bull terrier named Reesie.