Monday, January 19, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Pack of Dorks

As a middle school “dork” myself, I often choose middle grade books where the dorky kid finds a place for themselves. This one was interesting because the main character had a new baby sister with a disability. I read it as an e-book from my public library.  

Here’s the Amazon description:

Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. 

Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cool table in the cafeteria, or Lucy can pull up a chair among the solo eaters—also known as the dorks. Still unsure, Lucy partners with super quiet Sam Righter on a research project about wolves. Lucy connects her own school hierarchy with what she learns about animal pack life—where some wolves pin down weaker ones just because they can, and others risk everything to fight their given place in the pack. Soon Lucy finds her third option: creating a pack of her own, even if it is simply a pack of dorks.

Weaving tough issues, including bullying, loyalty, and disability, with a thread of snarky humor, family bonds, and fresh perspective, Pack of Dorks paints characters coming-of-age and coming-to-terms. Beth Vrabel’s stellar debut contemporary middle grade novel is sure to please fans of Jack Gantos, Elizabeth Atkinson, and Judy Blume.

Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel, Sky Pony Press, 2014

My Take:

Lucy has a lot of problems with kids at school, not to mention the problems that arrived when her new baby sister was born. I haven’t come across many middle grade books where the main character has to deal with a sibling having Down Syndrome. Lucy's behaviour and actions seemed realistic for her age and I was rooting for her to find a way to solve her social problems and fit in. I especially liked her unconventional grandmother, and learning about wolves and the wolf sanctuary. 

From a writer’s perspective, it was interesting to think about how the author stayed true to Lucy’s point of view, by having her more concerned and aware of problems with her friends than the issues related to her new sister, which were consuming her parents.

Opening Line:

“This was the biggest recess of my life.”


“Dad nodded at me, and the sick feeling I had trapped under my ribs since our fight trickled away.”

“Maybe I should’ve stood up for April the way she had for me, but I couldn’t seem to move.”

“She pushed back the sleeves of her uniform and I could see her arms weren’t soft like the soggy chicken skin on Grandma’s arms. They were solid and rippled with muscle. I swallowed hard.”

Other Info:

Beth Vrabel lives in Connecticut, and once wanted to be a wolf biologist.

Her next book, The Blind Guide to Stinkville is coming in the fall of 2015.

On her blog, Beth Vrabel says this about writing: “First I think of a character. Over the course of weeks or even months, I think about that "person," what makes him tick and how he'd react to different situations. And then I (hopefully) find my plot.”

 For more, visit Beth Vrabel’s website


  1. This sounds like a great story, especially since she's also dealing with a disabled sibling. And the first line really grabs you. Thanks for spotlighting this.

  2. What an interesting cover and perfect for the story. I like that it's not a formula coming of age story with the addition of the intriguing side plots. Thanks for featuring and I've added it to my TBR list.

  3. Middle grade dork...I can totally relate. This sounds wonderful and I really like the opening line. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. This sounds very intriguing. I am putting it on my TBR list right now. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. This one is definitely going on my list.... it sounds so intriguing. And the cover is cool (which is very important for those of us who choose our books by the cover.....)

  6. Ooh, this sounds really good! I am also attracted to books about dorks and misfits. The fact that she also is dealing with a sister with Down's syndrome is also intriguing. I loved the author's quote about ruminating about character before she thinks about plot--good advice!

  7. Yes, I need to get this, too. Thanks for spotlighting it, Andrea.


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