Title: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Genre: Realistic Middle-Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 220
I wasn’t sure whether to read this book at first because it seemed like it was on the easier end of middle grade and I thought I was probably too old for it. It was one of those books I’d been quasi-interested in for years but I never actually got to reading it. Luckily, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree turned out to be an absolutely delightful read and a welcome break from the dark and depressing fiction I usually read. After I read it on my Kindle, I immediately bought the sequel.
Emma-Jean Lazarus wants to help other people function more effectively, but how can she help them if she can’t even understand them? Emma-Jean is an enigma, pragmatic and brainy but seemingly untouched by seventh-grade drama. It’s highly probable that she has undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome or something similar, but to her classmates she’s just plain weird.
When Emma-Jean comes across her classmate Colleen crying in the bathroom, Colleen confides in her in a moment of weakness that she’s afraid the school mean girl is trying to steal her best friend. Emma-Jean wants to help, but her unusual methods just put her in hot water with the people in her life. The chapters alternate between focusing on Colleen and Emma-Jean’s perspectives and the third-person narrative is deadpan and funny in a way that I think both kids and adults can enjoy.
Colleen is the ‘normal kid’ but her viewpoint is still fleshed out with sensitivity and realism. It’s Emma-Jean, though, who it’s hard not to fall in love with; especially for people who spent their childhoods shaking their heads at the goings-on of their peers without being one of them. Although some serious issues are touched on, the overall vibe of this book is fun and positive without minimizing how hard the social mores of middle school can be on kids who don’t quite make the cut.
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