In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.
It is incredibly rare for me to say this, but this book did every. single. thing. right. If I were reviewing for a trade pub, I would recommend a star because this is my middle grade/middle school perfection. And to put it in perspective, this is the first MG title that has made me cry since I read THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU by Jen Maschari back in August.....and I read a LOT of MG!
EVERY SHINY THING nails it with the following things: * gorgeous alternating verse and prose - this structure provides such texture and richness to the book, and the varying pace of the story is exhilarating * Sierra's heartbreaking (but also heartwarming??) story of a teen girl in foster care * the messages about addiction - those hit me HARD, especially about AlaTeen * Lauren's struggle with missing her brother and her altruistic (but illegal) compulsions are written so rawly and so compassionately that it's impossible to separate empathy from disapproval of her actions * The Quaker community and school setting was completely original and the first I have encountered in my middle grade reading. It was fresh and educational and done in a teaching-not-preaching way.
I could go on and on and on. Required purchase for middle school libraries. Recommended for grades 5 and up.
Diversity note: This book does it ALL. There are multiple same-sex adult couples, mixed race couples, kids of different racial backgrounds and abilities. These are included in a natural and open way that reads REAL.
Thanks to the authors for giving a free copy of this book to me for Kid Lit Exchange - all opinions are my own.
I'm such a sucker for alternating POV books, and yet, I hold them to high standards. Both perspectives need to be equally compelling, both characters need to have equivalently high stakes and distinct interior worlds. EVERY SHINING THING gives us two characters from very different backgrounds. Lauren's family is affluent and stable, but her older autistic brother's departure for a special school several states away has left her unhinged. In his absence, she turns to a new, quickly developing, well-intentioned but ultimately troubling habit. Sierra, the daughter of two addicts, is settling in with a foster family next door, and in Lauren she finds a big-hearted fast friend. But there's a troubling undercurrent to this friendship that hearkens back to Sierra's relationship to her alcoholic mother.
This upper middle grade story is wonderfully realistic -- the level of detail and character development is really extraordinary. My heart ached for Sierra, whose POV is told in free verse. And I was worried sick about Lauren! Oh my gosh, my heart was pounding as this story reached its climax. But perhaps what I admired most was how, through Sierra and Lauren's story, the authors try to tackle a really complex subject. We live in a country with such incredible inequality that it can feel hopeless from the point of view of a middle schooler. What *can* we do about it? I love the way they broach this subject and I'm so glad this story will be out in the world come April 2018. We need it.
3.75 stars rounded up to 4. Two giris, Lauren and Sierra, who would appear to have nothing in common become friends and comrades in this story about change. With her older autistic brother Ryan (who she loves fiercely) attending a special boarding school, Lauren finds herself no longer caring about the same things she once did. How can she fill the void now that Ryan no longer needs her? She could join a new club, become friends with Sierra the new girl at school who also lives next door or she could come up with a new and risky idea for making a difference. Most 6th graders will love this story told from both Lauren's and Sierra's point of view in alternating chapters. With a teacher's guide and discussion questions available, teachers will love it too. It is perfect for book clubs and literature circles.
In Every Shiny Thing, the POV switches from Lauren, a wealthy, privileged girl who misses her brother who is autistic and sent away to a special school, and Sierra, whose parents are both in jail, forcing her into foster care. Lauren's chapters are written in prose while Sierra's are in verse, which can be a compelling storytelling technique. However I thought Sierra's chapters were much more engaging and well-written than Lauren's, and I feel that if we just stayed in Sierra's POV and Lauren was a side character, this book would have been more effective. While Sierra's character was flawed she was still a good person and you could still root for her. Lauren, meanwhile, was pretty insufferable. Even when she was trying to do something good, she was being terrible, and not a good friend at all. I also thought the "diversity" was just sort of tacked on, and that we always learned if someone was black or Asian but no one that I recall was described as a white girl. This book is okay and the writing of the poetry was really solid, but it was too preachy and too much of an "issues" book and I don't think I'll be recommending this to any middle grade readers.
Note: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
To be honest, this book really frustrated me, the main character, Lauren, although she does questionable things for the right reasons, the things that she does are out of control. < spoiler >She not only is risking her own families happiness, she is risking her so called friend, Sierra! Sierra is a foster child and if she is suspected, she may be sent away. Lauren does things for very admirable reasons and she has a kind heart, but at one point she steals perfume from a person's house, one of her friends houses, who's dad volunteered his time to help her with a school fundraiser. I almost could not finish this book, i would have put it down for good if i didn't make myself finish every book that i read. Quite honestly though, i am very glad that continued reading as the ending was incredibly sweet. As much as i didn't like the character of Lauren, i loved the character of Sierra. I thought that as a girl growing up with both parents having addictions, how caring and willing to forgive people she was, was incredible. From such a young age, she looked after her mother. Then, when faced with the challenging situation of her best friend almost becoming a kleptomaniac, although to start with she hesitated and let Lauren continue, in the end, with her foster parents help, she comes clean to help her friend. I liked how this book had the story told from two points of view, but i really disliked the fact that all of Sierra's parts of the story were written in poems, for me this made it difficult to become immersed in this story.< /spoiler >
Five big shiny stars for EVERY SHINY THING. I loved so many things about this multi-layered and rich story, including the prose/verse format, character development, and a very real look at the complex teenage mind. This will definitely find a place in my favorite #MGlit of 2018.
Ryan is Lauren's world. She loves taking care of her brother and thinks he's doing well at home, but Lauren's parents have chosen to send Ryan to a boarding school where teens on the autism spectrum are supposed to thrive. Lauren is lost, she doesn't know who she is without her brother and misses him dearly. Her parents are convinced it's the best choice for Ryan and don't want to talk about their decision. Lauren's best friend doesn't understand what it's like to feel so lonely and doesn't support her either. Lauren is miserable and to make herself feel better she starts a school project. She wants to raise money for autistic kids with parents who don't have a high income. Her approach isn't conventional, she steals from the rich to aid the poor, but is that the right way to help people?
Sierra's mother is having problems and Sierra is used to taking care of things at home. Her mother was arrested and has been sent to prison. Sierra's father can't take care of his daughter either, so Sierra is being sent to a foster family. She ends up living next door to Lauren, who immediately treats her as a friend. Sierra wants to help Lauren with her plans, but she doesn't approve of her methods. Eventually the truth will come to light, what will happen to both girls when Lauren's thefts are being discovered and what are the consequences for Sierra, who was only trying to be there for her friend?
Every Shiny Thing is an impressive story. Sierra is strong. She's used to being there for others and will always help if she can. It doesn't matter if she pays a price for it over and over again, she still does it. My heart ached for this sweet girl. She has so much to offer, but life hasn't treated her kindly. She understands Lauren's pain and vice versa. Lauren isn't feeling complete without Ryan and nobody helps her to deal with her grief. Sierra does understands how she feels and they have an instant connection, but Lauren gets herself into a big mess she can't get out of and drags Sierra with her. Finding out what the consequences of their actions would be kept me glued to the pages.
Every Shiny Thing mixes prose, for Lauren, with verse, for Sierra. I loved that this story has two distinct voices. They are equally strong, which makes the book both refreshing and fascinating at the same time. I loved the combination, Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison are making it work in a fantastic way. I could easily feel the emotions of both girls and was captivated by their story from beginning to end. There's sadness and grief, but also plenty of hope, which makes Every Shiny Thing really special.
*note* *sorry to kinda go back and forth with my thoughts. also, you may wanna read the summary before this review, cuz it probably will read pretty confusing. also sorry its so long. i do kinda sum it up at the end but sorry its long.i'm feeling sorry today apparently. without further ado. . .*
sooooooo ahh i have too many thoughts about this one!! well, so there are two main characters, lauren and sierra. and i really liked sierra, she was so sweet and was super relatable and written well. . .but AHHHHHH LAURENNNNN. she kills me. and not kills me like "ah you kill me" as my bff likes to say in a southern accent, slapping her knee, when i make her laugh. but unfortunately, i just really did not like lauren. exhibit a: she thinks she's doing good but really just seems like that one girl who's super rich and privileged but kind of victimizes herself and shows off by "doing good". ya know. exhibit b: so sierra's dad is already in jail and sierra goes into foster care after her alcoholic mom gets arrested,(cheery ain't it) and lauren like showcases sierra as a small innocent heartbroken child that lauren is helping?! >:( exhibit c: her whole doing good scheme is stealing things from stores and friends houses and selling them on some sketchy online thingy, selling gifts she has (like objects. she wouldn't be able to sell gifts personality-wise seeming as she has none. . .*ohhh* you've been roasted lauren. anyway.), getting the money and hiding it in sierra's foster mom's dead daughter's room (happiest book EVER), and then a long ways out, after she gets about 1000 bucks, she'll give the money to her autistic brother - who went away to a boarding school which is how lauren's good intentions all started- 's old occupational therapist and her clients. these. are. such. long. sentences. i am sorry. anyway. i have a lot of problems with that scheme!! one- um, don't steal!! basic human thing! yes good intentions applause applause but really honey darlings, just don't steal stuff. two- did i mention lauren's parents, or anyone besides sierra, know NOTHING about this? if you really wanna sell that new macbook and pair o jeans your parents gave ya, tellll themmmm. three- i mean come on lauren. you don't have enough goodness in you to NOT hide all that money in as said earlier, sierra's foster mom's dead daughter's room?! whyyyy :(. ok, we're gonna move on from all the schemehating and on to the fact that sierra tries to tell lauren- CLEARLY,may i add- that she feels uncomfortable with all the stealhiding lauren's doing and roping her into- RIGHTLY SO! but does lauren care? nope! does she have a nagging feeling that she should stop? yup. and that's good at least. but does she ignore it and instead steal something reallyyyy expensive that i will not be mentioning for spoiler reasons? you betcha! so those are *most of* my problems with lauren. moving on! random thoughts. well, it felt a lil cliche at some parts because like at the beginning sierra doesn't like her foster parents and then they connect and bond and blah as usual. BUT there was something about the way it was told (sierra's parts are in verse) and the way she did it felt really nice and happycry-ish. also, lauren's autistic brother ryan felt less like an autistic kid and more like a guy who has particular taste, but we ain't gonna get into that for various reasons. ok guys. there are many more things i could say, but i'm just gonna save them for either an in-person rant or an updated review. TO. SUM.IT.UP. i loved sierra i hated lauren. hence. . .i would kinda recommend this book. (voices in my head: um yeah thanks a lot rebecca.) i am glad i read it because in some ways it is a needed story, especially sierra's part. her character, and struggles, are real. too real. and it feels good to hate a book character sometimes. yall can agree. but obviously, i had some negative thoughts. so if you have this and need something to read, read it. but it's not a DROP EVERYTHING READ THIS BOOK situation. i feel like maybe i'm just contradicting myself over and over. . .gahhh. maybe you get what i'm trying to say? *please please please*
I've said it before- I have read books with a main character I don't like (because it's designed to be that way, or something...) but this was one in which I did not like one of the two main characters, and it made me really not like the book. I was annoyed much of the time with the book, for giving this character a platform. I understand the intentions, but it was not carried out in a way that I could like the book despite her personality/actions. I just didn't like her and thus struggled with the book.
There are so many things about this book I really liked so the things that I didn't really are from an adult POV that perhaps a middle school reader would not consider.
I LOVED the change of prose and verse from Lauren and Sierra's POVs. Not only does it make it clear who is talking, but it really defines each girl well.
Both girls are struggling with completely different home situations and yet that forms the bond in their friendship. Lauren is struggling with the absence of her brother Ryan who is now attending an expensive private boarding school for children on the autism spectrum and Sierra is now living next door with Anne and Carl after being placed there by foster care. When Sierra attends school with Lauren, they instantly become best friends despite their vastly different backgrounds.
I liked the ever-changing school dynamics explored in the book. Once you are someone's best friend or part of their inner circle and literally the next day you aren't. These cliches and what is deemed popular are the constant power struggle at every school.
So what I didn't like.
Despite the fact that Lauren's parents knew that Lauren was deeply concerned about Ryan's placement at the new private boarding school, there seemed to be little conversation about it. There were definite clues along the way that Lauren wasn't happy with the arrangements and yet her parents seemed to mildly address the situation then move on. Even when they later realize the seriousness of the situation before the Christmas break, the apologies extended were to those hurt by Lauren's Robin Hood plan. Lauren's parents never sat down with her to discuss the obvious tie-in between Ryan's placement and Lauren's misunderstandings about his overall happiness at the school. Somehow Lauren was expected to make these connections on her own which felt was a huge expectation. With Anne and Carl, Sierra was receiving all sorts of support and creative "outside the box" parenting from non-biological parents. With Lauren, her own biological parents seemed to not fully understand the grief of their own daughter which was baffling.
I recommend this book as part of a class read so that an adult can fully lead a discussion on all the dynamics. It is by no means boring and the students would learn a lot. If a preteen read this book on his/her own, I am not sure all the lessons within the book would be fully absorbed.
Generally, I am one who quickly tires of literary trends. However, I'm still a fan of books told from alternating points of view. Every Shiny Thing, which centers around two middle school girls, does an excellent job of doing just that. The novel ping-pongs between text and verse. Lauren narrates her side of the story in traditional text. As the seventh-grade school year begins she is angry with her parents for sending her older brother off to a special boarding school for students on the autism spectrum. She has always been close to her brother, Ryan, and feels as though her parents have made a huge mistake by sending him to a school she is certain he hates. Sierra shares her point of view via verse. With a mother in jail she is sent to live with a foster family who reside next door to Lauren's family. Accustomed to caring for her addict mother Sierra is independent and longs for her mother's release. Brought together through proximity, the teens become friends, each in need of companionship. A school project launches Lauren's idea to raise money for families who are not able to afford therapeutic services for their autistic children. But, as Lauren looks around her she sees more and more things in need of fixing so. In response her efforts to raise money become increasingly desperate. At some point lines are crossed and both girls are left with a moral dilemma. Initially, I balked at the portions of this book told in verse. Despite my best efforts I've never been particularly keen on poetry. Just tell it to me straight! I always doubt my interpretations of verse so I've tended to avoid it for the most part. However, as I got deeper into the novel I came to appreciate Sierra's story and found verse the appropriate vehicle for her narration. Don't expect me to start quoting Robert Frost anytime soon because I still preferred Lauren's more traditional text but I do think there is value in both formats and this book might inspire young readers who are not as comfortable with standard text to try their hands at writing. Aside from simply being a genuinely enjoyable read, Every Shiny Thing offers some valuable thoughts to ponder. Is it ever acceptable to violate a personal code of ethics if the result is for the greater good? How important are honesty and integrity? Where does our personal responsibility lie?
What a lovely book about family, friendship, grief, change, and forgiveness. I received an ARC of this at NerdcampNJ and had no idea what it was about. The cover, although beautiful, doesn't really suggest how substantive the story is.
The two main characters, Lauren and Sierra, are both 7th graders. Lauren is struggling with the absence of her older, autistic brother who is beginning his first year at a specialized, residential school in North Carolina (Lauren and her family live in Philadelphia). Even though she's certain he'll be unhappy there, she's also aware of her own privilege; her brother wouldn't even have this opportunity if her parents weren't financially well-off.
Sierra's concerns run deep as well. She's been removed from her alcoholic mother's care after an altercation in the parking lot of a local mall and is now begrudgingly living next door to Lauren with much wealthier foster parents.
The story alternates between them as they try, sometimes not particularly well, to make sense of their changed circumstances. Lauren's narrative is composed in prose. Sierra's in verse. The dual genre structure really works.
My one critique: I wasn't entirely satisfied with Lauren's resolution -- some of her compulsive behavior seemed smoothed away a little too easily. That said, I loved how diverse the novel's cast of characters was (diverse racial representation, diverse class representation, many different kinds of family configurations, visible LGBTQ adults).
One other awesome tidbit about this book: The girls go to a Quaker school! I can't recall ever reading a book in which the protagonists attend a Quaker school. It felt pretty darn authentic. It made me wonder if either author attended or taught at one (Morrison was a middle school teacher).
NOTE: I received an ARC of Every Shiny Thing through a book group in exchange for my honest review. (However, this book is now available to purchase.)
Every Shiny Thing is very unique. Told from alternating POV, one in prose and one in verse, the characters' stories complement each other. Lauren is struggling to deal with her brother with autism moving away to attend a specialized school, as well as the inequities she is beginning to notice around her. Sierra is struggling to deal with her mother's ongoing broken promises. Lauren befriends Sierra and provides friendship when Sierra needs it most, but her own (illegal!) problems begin to weigh the girls down. Unfortunately, good intentions don't undo bad deeds.
Every Shiny Thing has a strong diversity game going on. Kids in care, addictions, same-sex parents, bi-racial families, Quaker philosophies, and children with special needs all make for a diverse cast of characters, but yet, doesn't overwhelm the story. It is a well-crafted story about loss, social justice, friendship, growing up, and making difficult choices.
I recommend Every Shiny Thing for school libraries serving grades 5-8.
I love a good verse novel, and I love a novel which tells the story from two perspectives. This novel has both.
Lauren's story is written in traditional prose and introduces us to her autistic brother, Ryan, who has been sent away to a special boarding school. Lauren is gutted as she adores Ryan and wants him to come home. She is also aware that her family are wealthy enough to send Ryan to the school, while there are other families who can't afford the sort of care her brother is getting.
Sierra's story is told in poetic prose. She has been sent to foster parents, who live next door to Lauren, when both her parents end up in jail.
The girls meet and become friends, but when Lauren starts stealing to make money to try and raise funds for children who can't afford the sort of care that Ryan is getting, Sierra becomes increasingly uncomfortable.
This is a great read with many deep themes to think about, but at its core it is a story of friendship and what it means to be a good person.
This is one of the best middle grades novels I have ever read. Told from the perspectives of two 7th graders, both of whom are dealing with a family upheaval. The authors get the emotions so very right and the social situations are completely believable. There is nothing awkward about the transitions between the two narrators, one character speaking in prose, the other in verse. Highly recommended.
Seriously great MG novel told in fiction and prose from two alternating perspectives. This book brings in lots of topics that aren’t always discussed in MG novels or in youth fiction at all. Various religions, kleptomania, Al-Anon for teens, alcoholism, class systems, race and more. We need more books like this. #weneeddiversebooks
Perfect alternating POV! The poetry made me cry, and the prose gave the story fantastic momentum. I don't always have trouble putting down a middle grade book, but this one kept me turning the pages. Love!
Wow! Really good. Two girls each with very different backgrounds come together and help each other in more ways than they could imagine. Really strong writing and a story that keeps the reader engaged the entire experience!
A YA novel that exposes how young friendships develop and change, both situationally and with age. We meet young Lauren at a tough time in her life with a big family change happening with her family. We meet Sierra at a tough life moment with her mom and readjusting to a new life. A sequence of events throws them together and, then, that sequence of events becomes a tangled web that shows how friendships form and how they fall apart. We learn that even the best intentions, when approached incorrectly, can cause huge amounts of chaos. A YA book that teaches that life can change in a moment and with a choice.
Every Shiny Thing is told in an alternating point of view format. Lauren's chapters are narratives while Sierra's are free verse which makes the book read fairly fast. I also read through it quickly because I was caught up in the story. Both girls are good characters even though Lauren is quite flawed. Even when she believes she is doing good, she isn't. She is coming from a privileged life and is completely blind to her privilege when it comes to what she says and how she justifies her actions. She's also a self-righteous teen who believes she sees things more clearly than others. Just like all of us did when we were teens who couldn't believe how stupid everyone else in the world was or why we were the only people who felt so deeply. But despite her many flaws, it is easy to feel for Lauren and to see why she is slipping down the slope into true kleptomania.
While both girls are well drawn, Sierra's story is the one that really resonated with me. Sierra is the perfect depiction of an enabler and caretaker for people with addictions. And yet she is not labeled as such - we're just shown that life. I could feel her unease grow throughout the book while she tried to keep the peace with everyone. I know that one or both of these authors must be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic to capture that thought process so expertly and the huge, but quiet, toll it takes on a child.
There are many themes to think about in this book and I would like to hand it to my students who need it. But I believe it will also appeal to those who are just looking for a good story of friendship and bad choices.
Every Shiny Thing centers on the lives of two girls. First we meet Lauren who is struggling to cope with her brother’s move to a boarding school for teens with autism. Then we have Sierra, a teen who has just been placed in foster care. When Sierra is placed in the foster home across the street from Lauren’s house, the two girls meet and become fast friends. Fed up with her parent’s perceived constant spending and motivated by her Quaker Schools legacy of philanthropy, Lauren becomes obsessed with raising money for those in need. Only, instead of hosting a fundraiser, Lauren and Sierra hatch a Robin Hood Scheme. Soon, Lauren gets a little too into it, stealing from friends and stores and selling the good online…and before long, she asks Sierra to harbor the goods at her foster home, despite Sierra’s feelings of unease about the habit. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the inevitable fall. Would they be found out? Caught red handed? Which one would take the fall? Would it complicate Sierra’s already complicated situation? And on an emotional level, would Sierra get a chance to reunite with her mother? Would Lauren end up having a good reunion with her brother, Ryan, when he returned for Christmas break?
This novel, told in two points of view, one in prose and one in poetry, is an emotional story of thievery, the trials of middle school, and above all, home and heart. This should hit the mark for middle grade readers who enjoy life’s complexities paired with the intrigue of secrecy. Hand to fans of One for the Murphy’s by Lynda Mullaly Hunt or Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker.