Authors have gotten a lot of mileage out of the terrible years of schooling that kids must endure before adulthood swamps them with real life. Karen Roman Young adds to the stack with this novel of a girl’s 6th grade year in a Connecticut school. Tink (aka Chris aka Christina aka Hundred Percent) spends the year caroming from one slight to the next: a couple of boys bark at her from a passing car, her best friend goes to in-crowd parties without her, her first crush doesn’t know she’s alive. On top of everything, she’s the tallest girl in her class, and she thinks she isn’t “cute”.
Young drops us into nine extended moments in Tink’s school year, running from September through May. We watch Tink struggle to figure out who she is before she heads to a new school for 7th grade (thus those various aliases). Incidents are funny or heartbreaking — who hasn’t made a fool of themselves in front of a class, or suffered a lonely moment of humiliation in a school hallway? You can’t help rooting for Tink, hoping she’ll find the self-assurance she needs so that she can be herself — clever, funny, loyal, insightful, tall.
In all aspects but two, Hundred Percent realistically portrays the concerns, language, interests and whirlwind relationships of tweens, thus appealing to the book’s intended audience (readers ages 10 and up).
Those areas of unrealism? First, Tink calls her best friend, Jackie, almost daily, but it’s on the landline phone! Is there really a city or town where this cohort doesn’t even yearn for electronic connections? Tink and Jackie get iPod Nanos for their 12th birthday, so we know the setting is modern. So — where are the cell phones? Not a mention or passing reference even hints at their existence.
And second, I see little here that would appeal to young male readers. There are a couple of key male characters, but not central enough to draw in the boys.
Those minor complaints aside, I’d recommend this book for girls, including strong readers who are younger than 10.
Full disclosure: I’m reviewing a free Advance Reader’s Copy (uncorrected proof), provided by Library Thing.