The latest novel by Tae Keller, author of When You Trap a Tiger

Jennifer Chan is Not Alone is the latest book by Tae Keller, author of When You Trap a Tiger.  I received an eARC in exchange for a review.
Cover of Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller, author of When You Trap a Tiger
Jennifer Chan is missing.  

That's the first thing the reader learns.  As the book progresses, told from Mallory's viewpoint, we learn that perhaps Mallory had something to do with her disappearance.  Mallory, like many middle school students, struggles to fit in, and after finally making it into the "inner circle" with the cool kids, she doesn't want anything to change that shaky spot.

But Jennifer has moved in across the street, and she's interesting, in a sort-of-strange way.  Mallory thinks it's admirable that Jennifer doesn't seem to care about social constructs, but she doesn't think it's THAT admirable.  In other words, she wants to hang out with Jennifer at home but not at school.  

Keller adds another layer to that and that is Jennifer's love of all things space and aliens.  It is a way for her to stay connected to her father who recently passed away.  While I appreciated that (each of my children found something that kept them connected with their dad after he passed away.)  But this was the place for me where things got a little weird; I thought Jennifer's fascination was a little obsessive and it didn't feel real to me.

When Jennifer goes missing, Mallory tries to enlist the help of some people she left behind in her quest for popularity.  That takes some work.  And those folks are honest about their feelings about her.

The chapters are divided between "Then" and "Now" and they help build the tension as you learn the back story.  The girl drama is honest, harsh, and very real. 

 For anyone who has ever experienced bullying, this will read true.  Keller includes an Author's Note where she reflects on the very real and humiliating bullying she experienced in middle school.  Her experiences broke my heart.  

I just couldn't connect with Jennifer's, and later Mallory's fascination with and attempts to reach aliens.  However, because bullying is really at the forefront of this novel, I believe it would be a worthwhile book to have on middle-grade teachers' shelves.
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