Monday, December 1, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden

I can't remember reading another book about a bully trying to change their ways. I was intrigued right from the beginning. This is a novel that really makes you think, but also one that hooks you and keeps you reading until the end.

Jill MacLean
Here’s the Amazon description:

Sigrid Sugden is a Shrike, a member of one of the toughest group of girls in school. They are experts at blackmail, extortion and bullying their terrorized classmates.

But one day, the Shrikes go too far. Sigrid realizes that their favourite victim, Prinny Murphy, is in real danger. She makes a decision that will save Prinny from danger but will turn the Shrikes anger and bullying against the former friend who betrayed them to the authorities.

For Sigrid, this is a transformative moment. She wants to be a better person and begins to reflect on the events that led to her being a Shrike. Participating in their mean pranks made her feel powerful and safe. But now, she realizes she needs and wants to turn over a new leaf - make new friends and be kinder to others. But overcoming her bad girl image is a whole lot harder to do than she originally thought. No one likes her, no one trusts her - no one is willing to give her a second chance. But then an unlikely ally comes forward to help her convince the rest of the students at school that she really does want to be a better person - her former victim, Prinny Murphy.

The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden by Jill MacLean, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013

My Take:

I got very wrapped up in this story. Some parts surprised me and other parts reminded me how cruel kids can be towards each other and others. I wasn’t sure I liked Sigrid at the beginning, but by the end, I was rooting for her. The characters and situations in this story are realistic and take the reader on an emotional journey. This is a fast-paced story that didn’t take too long to read. It's not a book to turn to if you want a happy ending with everything tied up neatly, but it had a realistic and hopeful ending that left me thinking. It would be a great book to read with a class to discuss issues related to bullying.

The writer in me admired the way the author managed to dig right in to difficult issues and convey the struggle and emotion the character faced. This novel is written in first-person, so it’s a good one to study to see how to create a unique character voice.

Opening Line:

“Show her the photo, Sigrid,” Tate says.”


“It feels like the walls are closing in on me, the air so stale I can scarce breathe.”

“The dandelions smear into yellow streaks as I hit the ground.”

“Crazy, I know, major crazy, but fears are fears because they grasp you by the throat, not by the brain cells.”

Other Info:

Jill MacLean lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

This is the third book in Jill MacLean’s trilogy of books set in Newfoundland. The others are The Nine Lives of Travis Keating and The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy. She has also written two YA books.

This book is shortlisted for The Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, 2015 and is also a 2015 Silver Birch Fiction nominee.

For more, visit Jill MacLean’s website.

Looking for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books? Visit Shannon Messenger’s blog for a list of bloggers reviewing great books today! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. This sounds really good! The whole bullying thing has been overdone in kidlit, but this sounds like a fresh take. I love books where there's character growth and redemption. I'll be checking this out!

    1. I found it really interesting -- especially since the change in her ways didn't come easy and it was so realistic the way the other kids reacted to it.

  2. This sounds like a must-read to me. Bullying is epidemic, especially now with so many kids being online. Thanks for always featuring so many great Canadian authors!

    1. This one takes place in Newfoundland, so there is a lot of local flavor in the expressions and voice.

  3. This sounds really different and really, really worth reading. Thanks for telling me about it. I will try to check it out.

    1. I hope you can find it. At first I didn't know if I'd like it, but I was kind of hooked to see if the main character could turn things around for herself.


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