Title: The Undercover Book List
Author: Colleen Nelson
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: October 5, 2021
He’s known as the class troublemaker. She’s known as the bookworm. But when every note they send is anonymous, identity is suddenly what they make it.
Between her father’s posting overseas and her best friend Sienna’s move to the other side of the country, seventh grade is looking lonely for Jane MacDonald. But Sienna has left her with one last trick: a hidden message in a library book—the perfect plot to start a secret club and find Jane a new book-loving friend.
Tyson Flamand has problems of his own. Since the fourth grade he’s had a reputation as a bad kid, and there’s no point fighting it when teachers always think the worst. So when he finds an anonymous note in the library looking for a nerdy new friend, he knows he’s the last person in the world it could be meant for. But something makes him answer it anyway, and Tyson finds himself pulled into a secret book club where being hidden may be the first step to being truly seen.
With the insight of a veteran middle-school teacher, Colleen Nelson, author of the award-winning Harvey Comes Home and Sadia, weaves together two stories of identity, expectation, and the courage to challenge both. As their paths move ever closer, Jane and Tyson both discover their own self-reliance and their ability to overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable.
When Jane’s best friend moves away, she leaves Jane a book scavenger hunt to find a new friend who loves to read as much as she does. There was a note left in the book Liar and Spy, with the start of the Undercover Book Club for Jane to start with someone else. Tyson sees Jane with the note, and decides to play along with the secret book club to play a trick on Jane. However, when he starts reading the books she suggests, he realizes that he actually likes to read. Jane tries to solve the mystery of who’s leaving notes for her in the Undercover Book Club, while Tyson tries to adopt a more serious attitude towards school and reading.
In this book, the kids compete in a Kid Lit Quiz, which is a trivia competition about books. I don’t think that was around when I was a kid, but I would have loved it. I haven’t read many of the books mentioned in this story and I’m curious to read them now. I loved that the book club and quiz in this story turned Tyson, a reluctant reader, into a book lover. Whenever someone tells me they don’t like reading, I just say that they haven’t found the right book yet. That was true for Tyson in this story.
This story had two narratives, a first person narrative from Jane and a third person narrative about Tyson. It wasn’t obvious to me why Jane told her own perspective while Tyson’s narrative had a third person narrator. Jane had a more complex storyline, so maybe that’s why, but I’m curious why they didn’t have the same kind of narrator.
The Undercover Book Club is a fun middle grade story!
Thank you Pajama Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Have you read The Undercover Book List? What did you think of it?