cover image Up for Air

Up for Air

Laurie Morrison. Amulet, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3366-6

Debut author Morrison, a former teacher, realistically captures the challenges of middle school—complicated family dynamics, volatile friendships, and first love—in this story about a girl struggling to find where she belongs. Annabelle Wilner has just finished seventh grade at a prestigious academy on Gray Island in New England, where she lives with her mother and doting stepfather. Though a learning disability makes school difficult despite tutoring and extra study sessions, Annabelle finds success on her swim team, where she is bumped up to the high school level. Soon, she attracts the attention of a cute sophomore, and her desire to impress him leads her to risk losing what she holds dear: her two best friends, her relationship with her stepdad, and her scholarship to the academy. When an injury keeps Annabelle from swimming, she finds herself drowning in insecurity, culminating in a disastrous attempt to reconnect with her father. Annabelle is both innocent and rebellious, creating an inconsistency that feels genuine for her age group, and her worries about doing well in school and fitting in socially are palpable. By avoiding a picture-perfect ending, Morrison stays true to the maddeningly uncertain years of middle school, depicting all of its in-between-ness with spot-on accuracy. Ages 10–14. [em]Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (May) [/em]