cover image Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

Tae Keller. Random House, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-31052-6

Unaccustomed to new kids moving to Norwell, Fla., 12-year-old Mal Moss, who is part Korean and part white, is excited when Chinese American classmate Jennifer arrives. But when Mal learns that Jennifer believes in aliens, she worries that pursuing a friendship will negatively impact her social status at school. Mal’s certainty that their classmates won’t accept Jennifer’s idiosyncrasies are confirmed when school begins and Jennifer becomes the target of harassment at the hands of Mal’s best friends Tess and Reagan, both cued as white. After Jennifer runs away, Mal searches for her, using the help of entries from one of Jennifer’s notebooks, determined to make up for past mistakes by solving the mystery behind her absence. Keller (When You Trap a Tiger) uses a vulnerable first-person narrative that alternates between past and present to sensitively detail the emotional roller coaster of navigating changing social rules, the anxieties of being oneself, and the process of coming to terms with one’s flaws. Its core message about bullying and its effect on both the bully and their target offer a sincere look into individuals’ desire for acceptance. An author’s note concludes. Ages 8–12. Agent: Faye Bender, Book Group. (Apr.)