The Undercover Book List
by Colleen Nelson (Goodreads Author)
Jane is devastated that her best friend, Sienna, is moving away. But Sienna has a great idea for how Jane can find some new friends- leave a note in their favorite library book inviting whoever finds it to join the Undercover Book Club. The club members’ identities will be secret, and they will leave anonymous notes recommending books to each other.
Tyson is always in trouble at school. He doesn’t turn in his homework. He plays mean pranks on people. He is constantly in the principal’s office. When Tyson sees Jane leaving a note in the library, he gets curious and joins the club! For the first time, he is reading and it opens up his world. Can these total opposites really become friends through the Undercover Book Club?
I like this book a lot! I loved the characters of Jane and Tyson. Jane is sweet and kind and bookish. She’s an adorable nerd! But she has a lot of heartache in her life, and she turns to books to help her manage her stress. Tyson is a slacker who feels like there is no point in trying to follow the rules or do well in his classes, because everyone expects him to fail and make trouble. He lives up to those low expectations, but on the inside he is capable of more. He just needs the courage to break out of the labels, and be his true self. He has such amazing character development! His character gives me hope for some lost kids I know.
The writing style is wonderful, but it has a slightly odd structure. There are two POVs from Jane and Tyson, and I liked that each character’s POV is written in separate chapters, so that it is easy to tell who we are following. They each have distinct voices, which is so important with multiples POVs. However, Jane’s chapters are told in first-person, and Tyson’s are told in third-person omniscient. I will say that this fits so seamlessly with their personal voices that I didn’t even notice it until chapter 5. So I didn’t mind the changes in style, but I thought it was a bold choice, and I’m not sure why the author chose it. It seems unnecessary.
I loved the positive messages in this book! There are some really deep themes that are explored, like death, illness, war, bullying, and trust. There is one incident where some boys draw rude pictures onto a school poster. The book says explicitly what they drew. They are punished for it, and the incident is used as a growing moment for some of the characters.
The best part of this book is all the books! Half the story takes place in the library, and the characters are preparing for a Kid Lit Quiz competition, so they are studying their fiction trivia. There is a list at the back of the book showing all the books that the characters read, and then you can read them too!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.