Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – LUCY UNSTRUNG

Normally with Middle Grade Monday I do classics, or at least books from my past that I recall fondly. Sometimes I might do something more recent that I feel is destined to become a classic or that fills a particular niche.

This week I’m looking at a book my agent gave me. I was written by another one of her clients: LUCY UNSTRUNG  by Carole Lazar.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

In this wise and funny first novel by Carole Lazar, Lucy is a sensible, perhaps even rigid, thirteen year old who is convinced that Grandma, God, and the Catholic Church are on her side. She tries hard to make her twenty-eight-year-old mother see the error of her ways. It’s not that her mother is wild – in their household even a fancy coffee causes a scene – but she has had to put off her own teenage years and she’s chaffing at the restraints on her life. Lucy is faced with the loss of her family, her home, her school, and even her best friend. As she struggles to preserve what she can from her past life, she finds that while Grandma, God, and her church are still there for her, there are problems she has to solve for herself.

I found this novel kind of hard to get into. If I had to say something negative about it, I would say it was too long. But towards the middle I connected with Lucy on a rather unexpected level, for me anyway. I connected with her because she’s Catholic.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am an atheist, but it wasn’t always so. Like Lucy I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. This book reminded me of how important that was to me when I was Lucy‘s age (13). What I liked about the treatment of Catholicism is that it is never suggested that God intervenes in anyway, or even that Lucy’s faith gives her strength. She prays, yes, and she goes to confession, but these are presented as almost reflexes, not really pertaining to the actual growth that Lucy undergoes.

As far as Catholic families go, Lucy’s is a bit strange, and this is a weakness of the book because it is never really explored. Lucy’s mother got pregnant as a result of statutory rape, when she was 14, and gave birth at fifteen. At 20 she married the man Lucy calls her father. Her biological father is never mentioned again. Nor does Lucy have any siblings, which is odd, for Catholics. The whole family dynamic with the grandparents and the step-dad is all a bit weird. But it feels real.

This book is unlike most of the middle grade books that I read. It’s character driven, messy, unresolved, detailed, ponderous, thoughtful and, again, real. I won’t say that I loved it, but I appreciated it. I think it would be a great book for more mature girl readers, especially Catholic girls. It’s pretty long, 256 pages but the reading level feels easy-ish – I would say about grade 4 or 5.

For this weeks I can’t wait to read, I’m going with WONDER by R.J. Palacio. It’s about a kid with a facial deformity.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

Because one of my unsold manuscripts is also about a kid with a deformity, I want to see how this is handled. Also I LOVE the cover. Middle grade covers are so much better than YA covers in my opinion. Anyone agree?


5 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – LUCY UNSTRUNG

  1. I’ve never even heard of LUCY UNSTRUNG! Interesting analysis, Gabrielle. Sounds like a novel that makes you think. And I like that although the church is there for her, she has to solve her problems herself.

    I have, however, heard of WONDER. I’m featuring it today!

  2. I admire your honesty, Gabrielle. And I agree that middle grade covers beat out YA by a mile.

    Finally, congratulations. I saw the sale of AUDACIOUS listed on PM over the weekend. Now that sounds like an interesting story!

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