Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail is a Perfect Ten!

Vail, Rachel. Well, That Was Awkward. Viking/Penguin Random House, 2017. 320p. $16.99. 978-0-670-01308-1. 5Q 5P M J

New Yorker Gracie Grant is an eighth grader who loves tortoises, so for her fourteenth birthday her parents surprise her with Lightning, a fast-paced Russian terrapin. Best friend Emmett, who lives four floors down, suggests a race with his rabbit, Fluff, with the winning owner to receive the ultimate ice cream treat with unlimited toppings. In the meantime, Gracie is bushwhacked by an unexpected crush on handsome AJ—so awkward because AJ likes her good friend Sienna, and Sienna likes him. When Sienna asks for Gracie’s help in sending AJ encouraging texts, Gracie readily agrees. She is used to being second best. Gracie is astonished when AJ, so tongue-tied in person, responds fluently, even understanding private jokes Gracie shares with Emmett. Gracie is also dealing with her overprotective parents. She knows that because her older sister was killed in an accident before Gracie was born, her parents have a rationale, but she still grows weary of the pressure to always be “fine.” Life gets worse when, at a party, Gracie says she does not like Emmett (she means like like), causing all her friends to temporarily shun her. Is there hope for a tall, clumsy middle-school girl with a big nose?

Vail may be disguised as an adult, but somewhere inside she is hiding a sensitive, confused, hormonal, loving, and intelligent adolescent. Using Cyrano de Bergerac as a model, Vail has created a fast-paced comedy characterizing a teen girl’s growing pains on the journey toward womanhood. Bring a tissue (or a pack), and enjoy.—Laura Woodruff.

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