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Things That Surprise You

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  288 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are chang
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Balzer + Bray
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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Linda Williams Jackson
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Again, she nailed it. Middle grade perfection. Teachers, please put this one on your shelves. Your students will love it.
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-releases
Maschari's stories are so beautifully written, with characters that let the reader in on who they are, piece by piece. Things That Surprise you takes us along with Emily, who is quietly struggling with changing friendships, family relationships, and where she fits into it all. I loved watching her navigate through the challenges and learn some important life lessons along the way.

I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
mindful.librarian ☀️
Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing me with an advance copy of this book for review - all opinions are my own.

Oh, how I love this book! I read it in one morning and halfway through reading it I messaged the author and told her my very personal reasons for just why I loved it so much ~ reasons that I won't go into here, but reasons that give me an insider's opinion on just how RIGHT this book is.

THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is at first glance a middle grade novel about a girl heading into mi
Ruth Lehrer
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is a simple but touching story about the agonizing experience of being in middle school. Maschari’s characters leap off the page and draw us skillfully into a complicated family situation through the eyes of Emily, a sixth grader. It all seemed incredibly familiar. The friendship battles of middle school girls made me cringe in recognition.

As in her debut work, the author intermingles the pets in her characters lives with their paths to self-discovery. I think Maschari’
Jenn Bishop
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh, the middle school years. I think most adults can agree that they were the worst. Well, for Emily Murphy, they're just beginning. Her best friend Hazel is convinced middle school offers a blank slate, that she -- and Emily, too, as "Em"-- can reinvent themselves. But what happens when Hazel's the one succeeding at the reinvention, with the new friends on the field hockey team, and Emily feels left behind? When all the changes -- her sister coming home from eating disorder treatment, her dad a ...more
Ailynn Knox-Collins
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's been a rare moment these days where I find a book that I cannot put down. ( I was so lucky to get the ARC). I was drawn into the story by the protagonist Em's voice and it took off from there. Reading this felt like experiencing all the angst of middle school all over again. Em has to deal with her dad's new person, her sister's illness and balancing new and old friendships. I actually cried at parts. This story is told so heart-achingly well. I cannot recommend this book enough. ...more
Monica Tesler
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will read anything Jennifer Maschari writes. Her writing is so captivating and immersive, it takes me to another place. In THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, it took me to middle school. The book was particularly poignant for me as my oldest son is in sixth grade this year.

It's not that Emily isn't excited for middle school, it's just that she likes things the way they are. Her best friend Hazel. Their obsession with their favorite book series. Their crafty hobbies like making costumes for her dog. The
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chapter-books, 2017
Once you get into the book, it's hard to put down. Love the character development of Emily as she manages middle school, her parents divorce, and her sister's eating disorder. ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-ya
I enjoyed every page of this beautiful story all about change—watching the main character navigate the shifts and changes of her family and friendships. Even while clinging to the way things were, she discovers new friends, new ways of seeing situations, and opens up to new things about herself.

"The shifts are small at first. You don't even know it is happening because all of it is occurring under the surface. Then, little by little, the divide gets bigger and bigger till one day, you look acro
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adored Jennifer Marshari's first novel, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, and I've been anxiously awaiting this one. THINGS THAT SURPRISE you does not disappoint. It's a sister story, a friendship story, a story for anyone in the throes of middle school or who remembers just how awkward and tense those years can be. The story centers on Emily Murphy, who is a Unicorn Chronicles super-fan. Em is struggling with her parents' split, her sister's rocky road to recovery, and a bit of drama w ...more
Amanda Schreiber
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Things are always messier than I expect."

Jen Maschari has beautifully captured the messy life of soon to be middle schooler, Emily Murphy. The self-doubt, angst & pressure to fit in. This story was deeply touching & emotional but filled with glittery hope! The story tackles tough issues like living with a sibling with an eating disorder & divorce, in an age appropriate way. The story highlights the heartbreak & love of a family as they come together to help a sister in need. Jen's writing is p
Michele Knott
I highly recommend this book for all middle grade classrooms and libraries.
Maschari captures that rough transition that happens in middle grade perfectly.
Bridget Hodder
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
An achingly perceptive, gentle, uplifting Middle Grade novel about friends, family and the power we own when we discover our true selves. Maschari's characters ring true at every level, and the wisdom within these pages is delivered in authentic voices that never feel forced or out of place in the hearts and minds of Middle Graders.

Emily's sister is in a treatment center for anorexia. Her dad's divorced her mom, and moved in across town with someone called Alice. And her best friend Hazel is act
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

Middle School isn’t what Emily expects. Her older sister Mina is still in an eating disorder treatment hospital. Her best friend Hazel is growing away from her. And her father’s new wife is difficult to hate.

When Mina tells Emily that middle school is horrible, she’s right for most kids. Insecurity runs high and kids mature at different paces. Jennifer Maschari gives Emily the right mix of angst and imperfection as the tween initially participates in mild bullying before befriending th
Jessica Schnebelt
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange for the review copy of this book - all opinions are my own. Things that Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari is about sweet 6th grader Emily Murphy who loves unicorns, infomercials, and reading the end of a book first. Emily has enough on her plate trying to navigate life with her sister in a rehab center and her dad's new girlfriend, so adding the start of middle school to that is a bit overwhelming. Emily is excited to start middle school with her best friend Hazel,
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With the transition into middle school, Emily is trying to figure out if she's still her 5th grade self, or if she's the new and improved 6th grade Em. To make things worse, she's trying to move on after her parents' divorce and older sister's stay in a treatment facility for anorexia. The start to middle school isn't going very smoothly. This is the perfect book for middle school girls! There are so many relatable topics! ...more
Victoria Coe
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book!!! Emily totally stole my heart. She loves a book series called the Unicorn Chronicles. She makes costumes for her dog. And most touching of all, she wants to be a better person, a better friend & a better sister. I adored everything about this adorable & poignant story about middle school, friendships, family, and change. Highly, highly recommend!
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a perfect middle grade. It tackled a lot of heavy issues in an age-appropriate way. I was instantly transported back to the beginning of 7th grade and reminded of just how terrible that time of life many changes, so many new things. I really loved this and think everyone should read it.
Brenda Kahn
Friendships change in middle school and it can be so traumatic as friends move on and you're left trying to make new ones so librarians can never have enough good books about friendship on the shelves. ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I could just taste sixth grade and junior high in every word of this book. The author did an excellent job of describing that time and showing that being yourself is just the best thing.
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
Navigating the changes of middle school is always challenging. But Emily isn't just dealing with shifting friendships and increased workloads. She's also worried about her older sister, who is currently in a treatment center for anorexia. ...more
Absolutely adored this sensitive, authentic look at mental health. Emily was such a likeable yet realistic main character.
Ms. Yingling
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Emily and Hazel have been best friends for years, but now that they are about to start middle school, things are changing. Hazel has been spending the summer hanging out with the girls on the field hockey team, and they've all started to dress alike. Emily loves a book series called The Unicorn Chronicles, but after she and Hazel go to a launch party for the newest book, Emily fears that Hazel has moved on to other things. She's embarassed by Em's costume,
S.M. Parker
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Maschari’s debut middle grade novel made me fall in love with this author’s storytelling and I was so thrilled to get an advanced copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU! This is a beautiful book about belonging and growing up. “Maybe this is a thing to know about growing up: There are some things in life you’ve got to hold on to. And there are other things you’ve got to let go. The key is knowing the difference.” (quoted from ARC). I’m not sure anyone has an easy time in middle school and Emi ...more
Laura Gardner
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU by @jenmaschari
Emily is entering middle school with her best friend Hazel by her side, except that her older sister is still in a facility for her anorexia and Hazel is preoccupied with field hockey. Emily (or Em as Hazel has begun to call her) is anxious about all this change and confused. She sends away for a self help CD set, but can a stranger help her with her problems?
I love coming of age books that explore friendships and norm
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Things That Surprise You, by Jennifer Maschari, is a complex yet highly accessible middle-grade novel about self-discovery, change, and relationships. Its protagonist is sixth-grader Emily, who loves a fantasy-detective book series called The Unicorn Chronicles, eating pizza at The Slice and crafting clothes for Bean, her dog. And Emily has always shared everything she loves with Hazel, her best friend.

As Emily begins middle school, her friendship with Hazel becomes as tough to navigate as t
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Growing up is an experience that I wouldn't want to have again. Books like this one bring back so many of those memories, both good and bad. While I didn't have a sibling with an eating disorder, I did have a friend that I lost during those years because of changing interests. Emily doesn't want her life to change. She doesn't like the fact that her sister had to go to an eating disorder treatment facility. She doesn't like the fact that her father left and now has an Alice in his life. But most ...more
Cindy Hudson
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Emily Murphy’s best friend Hazel is excited about starting middle school and changing her old self into something new. But Emily already likes herself: she’s a girl who loves the Unicorn Chronicles series, her dog Bean, and all things sparkly. Suddenly feeling very uncool, Emily worries her best friend is moving in another direction. There’s also tension at home, especially after her sister returns from a treatment center where she’s been getting help for anorexia. To find a path forward, Emily ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Nicely done. Emily's looking forward to starting middle school, but with the start of sixth grade come challenges she didn't expect: her best friend is pulling away, her eye on popularity. Her father's new girlfriend is trying hard—maybe too hard. Her teacher pairs her with an unpopular boy for a class project, further jeopardizing Emily's standing with her best friend. And Emily's older sister is just back home from treatment for anorexia, but she's still struggling.

The issues are well balanced
Ruth Ann
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was desperate for a sister when I was younger! (I did get one, twelve years after I was born - so glad.) I am an oldest child who would have welcomed an older sister in my life and especially in my middle/high school years. The character in this book has an older, but absent, sister and needs her back in her life. And the older sister needs to feel needed.

Middle school is about to start and life is already changing for Emily Murphy. Best friend Hazel is joining sports teams and making new frie
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Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher who writes books for young readers. She is the author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE and THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. She is hard at work on her next stand-alone middle grade from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and her two stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Hank and Stevie.

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