cover image Blackbird Fly

Blackbird Fly

Erin Entrada Kelly. Greenwillow, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-223861-0

Despite having moved from the Philippines to Louisiana at age four, Analyn Pearl Yengko, nicknamed Apple, still doesn't feel at home, even now that she's in eighth grade. Dreaming of becoming a songwriter, Apple pours her emotion into music, obsessing over the Beatles (her late father left behind one of their cassette tapes) and trying to figure out how she can acquire a guitar. But Apple's mother wants her to focus on her education, adding tension to a relationship already being tested by Apple's embarrassment that their home life is not typically "American." Meanwhile at school, Apple's best friend deserts her after Apple lands on the "Dog Log," a list of the 10 ugliest girls at school. Writing with acute sensitivity and sometimes painful realism, debut novelist Kelly skillfully captures the betrayals, tentative first crushes, and fluctuating emotions of middle school, which are heightened by Apple's awareness of her cultural and ethnic difference. In the face of her classmates' casual racism and cruelty, Apple's efforts to make genuine friends and embrace the things that make her unique feel like a true triumph. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (Mar.)