The girls at my school are always asking for "tween" novels in the library and I am always hesitant to purchase them for our collection. Most that I have read are, in my opinion, not appropriate for a school library. Now, before we get to the whole censorship issue, because of space, public opinion, budget and other constraints, school librarian, especially elementary school librarian need to be a little careful when selecting titles for the collections. So I have purchased very few of this genre for our school.
Talia Talk by Christine Hurley Deriso deals with the friendship changes that await the girls going to middle school. Talia Farrow is an 11 year old whose mother hosts a local morning news show. Her mom is constantly sharing stories about Talia which embarrass her. Stories involving crayons up the nose and vomiting on her piano teacher that make Talia cringe when she thinks about them. Talia's best friend, Bridget, is determined, confident, sometimes bossy and when they hit middle school she encourages Talia to sign up for the morning announcement TV show called the Broadview Middle School Oddcast, even though Talia isn't sure she wants to. Bridget is my favorite character, she's funny, and not afraid to express herself regardless of what people think.
Of course, it wouldn't be a tween novel, if there wasn't any tween angst. Meredith and Brynne are former BFFs with Bridget and Talia. As the girls enter middle school, these two decide they are too cool for Bridget, but might be able to put up with Talia if she abandons her friendship with Bridget. I know, typical story line for one of these books, but from personal experience as the father of a high school daughter, typical story line for real life too. Predictably, they all four make the staff of the news broadcast and the two tween queens scheme to get Bridget fired as the director by circulating a petition. In order to get a majority, Meredith bribes one staff member with an invitation to her birthday party and it comes down to whether Talia will sign or not. The birthday party is THE social event of the season complete with DJ, strobe light and dance floor. Meredith is registered at the hottest clothing store and expects all gifts to come from her list. Christine Hurley Deriso does and exceptional job of making these girls seem snobby and mean without crossing the line of realism. Everything she writes is dead on correct about how some middle school girls act.
In addition to this story line, Talia's father died of cancer four years earlier and her mother re-enters the dating scene. While this plot could stray into the "soap opera" realm, the author does a nice job of keeping it as light as possible and blending it with the rest of the story. All in all, Talia Talk does an excellent job of storytelling, problem solving and helping young girls look at real situations with real solutions. Will it win any awards? Probably not, but I'm sure girls in the fifth grade will love it.