cover image Dear Student

Dear Student

Elly Swartz. Delacorte, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-37412-2

Sixth grade at Hillview Middle School is off to a rocky start for budding writer and earnest narrator Autumn Blake, who is Jewish and cued white. Her father’s idealism led him to abruptly join the Peace Corps in Ecuador “six postcards ago,” and he now wants her to “get involved in one thing at school.” Her best friend Prisha, who reads as of Indian descent, has relocated across the country. And with finances tight, Autumn, along with little sister Pickle and guinea pig Spud, move from a house in to a small apartment above her mom’s Cape Cod veterinary clinic. But Autumn opens herself up to her dad’s advice to “seize the day,” and despite her anxiety tries to cope with the new circumstances. Soon, she’s chosen for the coveted role of writing “Dear Student”—an anonymous advice column that’s the school newspaper’s most popular feature. It’s apparent early on that sensitive Autumn is far more competent than she gives herself credit for, and even as Swartz (Give and Take) gracefully builds further incident into the protagonist’s life—giving advice while retaining anonymity, navigating social anxiety and battling friends, finding a way forward when she discovers a local cosmetics company tests on animals—there’s little doubt that she’ll end the book in a good place, one that celebrates her newfound faith in others and herself. Ages 10–up. Agent: Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Agency. (Feb.)