Maureen is nervous about starting sixth grade. As a new middle schooler, she will have to navigate new and confusing class schedules and all kinds of new expectations, and Maureen isn’t sure she’s ready. Still, at least she has her twin sister, Francine. They’ve always done everything together!
Except that suddenly, Francine is different. She’s taking different classes from Maureen, and joining different clubs. She’s changed her style so that the two of them look less alike. She’s even going by Fran. Maureen doesn’t know what to do. She hates the idea of drifting apart from her sister—not to mention the awkwardness of splitting up their friend group!—and is frustrated with Fran for acting this way.
Maybe that’s why she decides to run against Fran for student president. The good news: she has new friends who will help with her campaign. The bad news: Maureen is shy and a nervous public speaker, and doesn’t really know what she’s doing, and now Fran is mad at her for joining the race. What has she gotten herself into?
This realistic, relatable middle-grade story deals with changing relationships with family and friends, building confidence, and challenging yourself. The heroine, Maureen, has a good heart but also realistic, understandable flaws. It’s easy to sympathize with her insecurity and fear of change, even while it’s clear that Fran has the right to strive to be seen as her own person rather than part of an interchangeable set of twins. Though Maureen’s initial decision to run for student president stems partly from spite and frustration with her sister, she does develop a meaningful platform and is able to use the experience to connect with friends and, ultimately, with Fran.
While Maureen is the clear protagonist of the book, Fran is a prominent and interesting character. At first, her motivations are a mystery to Maureen: why would her sister, always happy to share the same classes, activities, and friends, suddenly want to change things up? But as the twins reach out to each other and reconnect, Maureen—and the reader—learn that Fran has a very different perspective on their relationship.
Rounding out the book is a rich cast of supporting characters: the twins’ parents and half-brother, their shared friends and Maureen’s new friends, and one influential teacher. There are also various incidents and subplots, like Maureen’s friend’s ambition to become an ROTC squad leader.
The cast is diverse, and largely composed of people of color. While race is not a major component of the story, Maureen’s experience as a Black girl is definitely not ignored. Observant readers will appreciate small touches like Maureen and Fran wearing hair bonnets to sleep. And while the word “racism” is not used, it is clearly in play during one incident at the mall when a white store clerk brushes off Maureen and her friends, making it clear she does not take them seriously as customers. Refreshingly, there are consequences: the clerk is reprimanded by customers, who decide to shop elsewhere. By the end of the book, the shop’s “Store CloseOut Sale” sign is visible in the background of one panel.
The art is clear, colorful, and consistent, and the characters expressive without being cartoonish. Maureen and Fran can sometimes be a little easy to mix up— understandable for identical twins!—but their clothing and hairstyles, plus context clues, help differentiate them. The backgrounds consist mostly of school hallways, classrooms, and Maureen’s home, and while they remain firmly in the background, they match the characters well in their level of detail.
With relatable characters and lots of heart, this will appeal to fans of other middle-grade contemporary realistic comics. Hand it to readers of Raina Telgemeier, the Babysitters Club graphic novels, Roller Girl, and Jennifer Holm’s Sunny series.
By Varian Johnson
Art by Shannon Wright
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 8-12 / grades 3-7
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: kids, Middle Grade (7-11)
Character Traits: African-American
Creator Highlights: African-American