Monday, November 5, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Camo Girl

Today’s pick: Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

Aladdin, 2011

From Amazon:
A biracial student questions her identity in this contemporary novel from the author of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptor Award–winning The Rock and the River.

Ella and Z have been friends forever, both of them middle-school outsiders in their Las Vegas suburb. Ella is the only black girl in her grade and gets teased for the mottled colors of her face. (Her deceased father was white.) Z is the classic “weird kid” who maintains an elaborate—and public—fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Though Z is content with his imagined world, Ella wishes for a larger group of friends, so she’s thrilled when Bailey, another black kid, arrives at their school. He’s popular and wants to befriend Ella—but to join the cool crowd, Ella would have to ditch Z. Does she stay loyal to the boy who has been her best and only friend for years, or jump at the chance to realize her dream of popularity? 

Author Kekla Magoon deftly navigates the muddy waters of racial and cultural identities in this contemporary exploration of one girl's attempt to find herself.

My Take:

I got absorbed by the characters in this novel about a girl trying to fit in when she feels like an outsider. I could feel Ella’s isolation and her inner conflicts as she struggled to make sense of her friendships with Z, Millie and Bailey. The characters in the story are all believable, and so are the situations they find themselves in. I loved Ella’s loyalty to her friends, and the lengths she will go to in protecting them and herself. This is a story that really tugs at your emotions.
I’d read this again to study how the author wove the realism of the school setting into the story. I don’t often read novels where the setting and situation feels so real. There is a strong voice that comes through right from the beginning of the story, which brings Ella to life and helps me feel a connection to her. It’s beautifully written.

Memorable quotes:
“Fact is, we’re the trunk of the popular tree. The very, very bottom of the trunk.”

“He knows how to pretend in a way that makes him likable, not weird.”

How I discovered this book:

I first heard about Camo Girl in a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post over at Readatouille, a blog by middle grade author Ruth Donnelly. It's a great place to visit to find new books to read!

Other info:

Kekla Magoon lives in New York City. She wrote her first novel when she was in high school, but she didn’t realize that she wanted to be professional writer until later in her life.

On her website, Kekla Magoon gives young writers this advice: “you need to believe that, no matter what anyone says about your writing, what you have to say is important.”

 Other books written by this author include:
37 Things I Love

Fire in the Streets

The Rock and the River

For more, visit Kekla Magoon’s website.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the incredible Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!


  1. Thanks for sharing this Andrea. I hadn't heard of it. I'll have to check out Ruth's blog too.

  2. Thanks for this review. I have also never heard of it, but have a young reader who I think would really like it.

  3. I've heard good things about this one and appreciate your thorough take on it.

  4. I've heard of this book but have never read it. I love that the setting and situation feel so real to you. And a strong voice is always a plus!

  5. Thanks for the recommendation. I loved the quote by the author. “You need to believe that, no matter what anyone says about your writing, what you have to say is important.” I think we all need to hear that, not just young writers!

  6. I haven't read anything by this authot, but this book sounds excellent. I love that it tugs at your heart and the characters are believable. ~Jess

  7. Sounds like a really moving story. How can you not love the name Kekla Magoon?

  8. This sounds very intriguing. So many books, so little time!

  9. I'm a big fan of multicultural fiction. How come I've never heard of this gem? I'm adding it to my list right away.


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