cover image Prince William, Maximilian Minsky and Me

Prince William, Maximilian Minsky and Me

Holly-Jane Rahlens, . . Candlewick, $16.99 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2704-1

Plenty happens to Nelly in Rahlens's (Becky Bernstein Goes Berlin , for adults) coming-of-age novel set in 1997, but well-drawn, realistic characters keep her story grounded. Nelly is a self-proclaimed "overachieving jerk" growing up in Berlin and preparing for her bat mitzvah when her whole world changes, starting with her sudden, intense crush on Prince William. When she learns that her school basketball team will travel to England, klutzy Nelly decides to try out for the team, convincing Max, an eccentric new student, to coach her. Meanwhile, tensions rise between Nelly's brash journalist mother, and her gentle musician father (Max claims that Nelly's father is having an affair with Max's mother), and Nelly's surrogate grandmother, who lives with her family, suddenly falls very ill. The novel features some familiar characters and story lines, but the main characters are all both humanly flawed and extremely likable, from Nelly's mother, who can be a nag but who really does love her, to Max, who even when he shows up in a suit, looking like a prince, complains that he's "allergic to cashmere." Nelly, too, can be quite insensitive, to her mother, but also to pal Pia, who calls her an "arrogant little snotnose." The ending scene—Nelly's bat mitzvah—may come together a bit neatly, but readers will be pleased that she has finally found her true home. Ages 12-15. (Oct.)