Monday, May 3, 2021

YOU GO FIRST by Erin Entrada Kelly - a story about online friendship and connections

 This is a quieter book that includes one of my favourite games. Published before the pandemic began, it now seems timely to think about the online connections we make and how they impact our lives.  

Why you want to read this book…

Another great story with characters that very real, from Erin Entrada Kelly. In this story, Ben and Charlotte live miles apart in two different cities and connect through an online Scrabble game. That concept hooked me on the book before I even opened it, since I'm a big Scrabble fan and I play online games all the time. I love the idea that having another person to connect with in some way, can help you feel less alone. 

For me, there was an underlying thread that different kinds of friendships fill different needs in your life, or help support you in different ways. Although the two kids became online friends, they had a different friendship than each of the main characters developed with their in-person friends and family. This is quieter story that leaves the reader with some questions to think about, and an ending that isn't neatly wrapped up (rather like real life).

I really love this quote from the story: "The greatest mystery of people isn't learning what they are, but learning what they aren't."

Here’s the summary from Amazon:

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana.

Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.

During the course of one week, Charlotte and Ben—friends connected only by an online Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school. The New York Times-bestselling novel You Go First reminds us that no matter how hard it is to keep our heads above troubled water, we never struggle alone.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly was published by Greenwillow Books in 2018. I read an e-book from my local public library.


If you’re looking for another thought-provoking, or maybe funny, middle grade book to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. I had this one on my books to read list a few years back but never got to it. You've renewed my motivation to give it a go this summer. Thanks for the recommend.

  2. Seriously, why haven't I read any of Erin Entrada Kelly's books yet? This story sounds excellent—I've heard about it before, and I feel like I might have written off Charlotte and Ben's friendship as unrealistic-idealistic-MG sorts of stuff. But now that you mention that it's more of a point about unconventional relationships that play different roles, I'm way more intrigued! I feel like participating in the book-blogging world is my own sort of unconventional relationship that fulfills a certain need for me. Thanks so much for the great review—it definitely got me thinking!

  3. I had never heard of this book. I love Scrabble too, and this sounds like an interesting premise for a MG book. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. This book sounds wonderful. I really like how subtle the cover is, yet it's super effective. Thank you for highlighting it.


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