cover image Lizzie at Last

Lizzie at Last

Claudia Mills. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34659-1

This engaging sequel to Losers, Inc. and You're a Brave Man, Julius Zimmerman gives the title character of the latter novel a minor role, while placing the refreshingly candid Lizzie Archer center stage. Determined to shake off her reputation as a nerd, Lizzie puts on a new face at the start of seventh grade. She exchanges her flowing lace dresses for jeans and tank tops, feigns dumb in math in a misguided attempt to impress a boy, abandons her beloved poetry-writing and imitates the guy-pleasing giggling of a popular girl in her class. While avoiding the melodramatic, Mills credibly conveys Lizzie's inner turmoil as she struggles to be normal yet fears she will ""never understand the rules of the popular girls' game."" On a class trip to the rare books room of a university library, the heroine, inspired by Emily Dickinson's individuality, suddenly realizes that she can be herself without worrying about what others think and without severing the new bonds that she has made with her classmates. With her likable heroine and strong supporting cast, Mills delivers a timely message to middle graders confronted with peer pressure--and facing a case of the back-to-school jitters. Readers will likely turn the final page of this story hoping that this isn't the last they hear of Lizzie. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)