As a fan of Greenwald's previous novels (My Life in Pink & Green and Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes), I was excited to read her latest. This one, Reel Life Starring Us, is just as delightful.
Dina has just moved to a new city and is starting eighth grade at a new school, a month late. She's artistic, enjoys filming videos, and is having to make the adjustment from a small school that encouraged differences (and where she was popular) to a bigger school filled with cliques. Chelsea is also starting eighth grade a month late, having just recovered from mono. Unlike Dina, she's starting school as one of the most popular girls, with tight group of friends. She's also starting school with a big secret. As the story unfolds, we get hints about this secret, such as her dad having traded his pin-stripe suits for work out clothes and her not having the latest pair of designer jeans.
Chapters alternate between the girls; one of the things Greenwald handles so well is changing the point of view. While Dina's chapters start with a film tip and Chelsea's start with a tip from a popular teen star, each girl also a distinct voice and you always know which one is talking.
Dina is aware of Chelsea from the moment the popular clique chants for during a badminton game as Dina watches from the sidelines. Their stories really begin to merge when the two are assigned to work on a video project together. Chelsea's reluctant about the project (she'd much rather be working with her friends than the unpopular new girl) and Dina's excited (she's got lots of great ideas and thinks this is her ticket to becoming Chelsea's friend and thus popular). Each girl thinks she can figure the other out in ten seconds, but slowly discover that's not the case.
Friendships, popularity, boys, school, family - it's all here. We (adults) hear so many real stories about kids growing up too fast, and a lot of them are...but a lot of them aren't. Greenwald excels (in all of her books) at capturing that true middle school experience for these kids - where you go over to a boy's house to study and are a little nervous about being alone in his room with him, and where parents ask about your day (even if you don't want to tell them).
Reviewed from digital copy provided by publisher on NetGalley