cover image About Average

About Average

Andrew Clements, illus. by Mark Elliott. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9724-5

Clements adds to his canon of school stories with this thoughtful novel about an earnest and introspective girl who longs to wrap up her sixth-grade year “in a blaze of glory, a flash of triumph, a burst of superstardom.” That’s not likely, given that, although Jordan is a hard worker, she’s a C student and, according to a list she draws up, the number of things she “stinks” or is “okay” at (violin, chess, a lineup of sports) far outstrips what she considers herself “great at” (only babysitting and gardening). Her self-esteem is further eroded by mean girl Marlea, who gets hold of Jordan’s list and uses it to humiliate her. The narration largely consists of Jordan’s internal monologue, as she obsesses over her insecurities and her annoyance with Marlea. Clements (Troublemaker) works in some constructive observations about counteracting bullying (Jordan combats Marlea’s nastiness with “industrial-strength niceness”). There’s no neat reconciliation (a natural disaster takes precedence and gives Jordan a chance to shine); rather, Jordan learns not to let herself be bothered by Marlea, robbing the bully of her power. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (July)