cover image Unstuck


Barbara Dee. Aladdin, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-534489-86-8

Seventh grader Lyla Benjamin is bursting with ideas for the extravagant fantasy novel she’s been plotting for a year, which centers on witches, feuding sisters, and a one-toed beast. But when her English class begins a creative writing unit that will end with the students participating in a town-wide writing contest that Lyla’s apparently perfect older sister Dahlia once won, Lyla experiences unexpected writer’s block. Even though she knows where she wants her novel to go, Lyla feels paralyzed by her goal to create an impressive story, resulting in distractions when she’s supposed to be writing. Her stress over the fast-approaching deadline is amplified by interpersonal complications including a growing rift with her best friend Rania, who’s attending a different middle school, and Dahlia confiding in Lyla that she’s uncertain about attending college. Through Lyla’s by turns earnest and anxious first-person perspective, Dee (Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet) deftly depicts the complex and sometimes turbulent writing process, and the self-doubt that can come with it. A section titled “Twenty-Five Ways to Get Unstuck” concludes. Lyla and her family are white; the supporting cast is racially diverse. Ages 9–13. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Feb.)