cover image The Queen Bee and Me

The Queen Bee and Me

Gillian McDunn. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-68119-751-7

Meg and Beatrix, 12, have been best friends since kindergarten, but in their hierarchical friendship, anxious Meg is compelled to follow popular Beatrix’s lead or get frozen out. When Meg earns a coveted spot in an advanced science elective and drops the dance class Beatrix had chosen for them both, she’s terrified to tell her friend. McDunn (Caterpillar Summer) deftly sketches Meg’s struggles amid seventh grade’s unspoken social order, highlighting how “Beatrix comes with her own set of rules.” Tensions escalate further when quirky new girl Hazel is paired with Meg for a science project on bees, and the two form a bond that infuriates Beatrix. Told in Meg’s strong voice, McDunn’s narrative includes fieldwork updates on the bee project that effectively echo the story’s human interactions (“How does the worker bee realize it is time to switch to something new?”). Meg’s warm, tight-knit family contrasts with Beatrix’s demanding and judgmental mother, who contextualizes some of the girl’s motivations. Readers will identify with the pitch-perfect middle school dynamics and cheer for Meg as she navigates a toxic friendship. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Marietta B. Zacker, Gallt and Zacker Literary. (Mar.) [/em]