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Just Like That

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Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school's traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene's with Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school's traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene's with a pillowcase full of money lifted from the leader of a criminal gang, fearing the gang's relentless, destructive pursuit. Both young people gradually dispel their loneliness, finding a way to be hopeful and also finding each other.


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Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school's traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene's with Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school's traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene's with a pillowcase full of money lifted from the leader of a criminal gang, fearing the gang's relentless, destructive pursuit. Both young people gradually dispel their loneliness, finding a way to be hopeful and also finding each other.

30 review for Just Like That

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lady Aquitaine

    This had better be a darn good book if it's going to even come close to making up for killing off (view spoiler)[Holling (hide spoiler)] . What an absolute gut-punch. 2020 is the worst. This had better be a darn good book if it's going to even come close to making up for killing off (view spoiler)[Holling (hide spoiler)] . What an absolute gut-punch. 2020 is the worst.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Damn. Near. Perfect. At Reading Rants: http://www.readingrants.org/2021/02/0... Damn. Near. Perfect. At Reading Rants: http://www.readingrants.org/2021/02/0...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Netgalley Meryl Lee Kowalski is shattered by the death of Holling Hoodhood, the main character in The Wednesday Wars, in a car accident right before the start of 8th grade. Her parents, concerned for her, decide to send her off to board at St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls. It's a hard transition, because most of the other students are more well-to-do and also have known each other for years. It's a different environment, and it makes dealing with "the Blank", the feelin E ARC provided by Netgalley Meryl Lee Kowalski is shattered by the death of Holling Hoodhood, the main character in The Wednesday Wars, in a car accident right before the start of 8th grade. Her parents, concerned for her, decide to send her off to board at St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls. It's a hard transition, because most of the other students are more well-to-do and also have known each other for years. It's a different environment, and it makes dealing with "the Blank", the feeling that descends on her when she is thinking about Holling, both easier and harder. Dr. MacKnockater is the headmistress, who is dealing with a young man, Matt, who has ended up in town, helped out Captain Hurd, and then been found badly injured. Dr. MacKnockater takes him in and acts as his foster mother while trying to get him an education, even enrolling him in her all girls school. Matt has had a life full of trauma, and is on the run from a violent criminal who seems to be able to find him no matter where he goes. He and Meryl Lee take a shine to one another. Meryl doesn't understand the stringent social rules that teacher Mrs. Connolly in particular is insistent on enforcing, and doesn't understand why she can't read John Steinbeck (he's a Communist), talk to the serving girls (they need to know their place), or talk about the Vietnam War (it isn't a suitable topic for conversation). Luckily, Dr. MacKnockater is on Meryl Lee's side, and is able to encourage her. Meryl also finds out that her family situation is changing, and this is another reason she was sent off. She slowlly comes to terms with Holling's death, and the school helps her find new motivations for learning and living. Matt's situation comes to a horrifying head but does get resolved, and Meryl is ready to continue on to high school. Strengths: I'm always looking for books set in the 1960s, and boarding schools are always a fascinating setting. There are a few good details about daily like during this time period, with discussions about the war and the relatives that people had off fighting. The tension between Meryl's more progressive views and Mrs. Connolly's traditional ones is interesting. Matt's story is thought provoking, and leads to a very suspenseful end of the book. Weaknesses: Holling's death is the single most abrupt and upsetting one I have ever seen in fiction, although Ambrose's death in the television show Ballykissangel comes close; my daughter still hasn't gotten over that. It's comes as a slap in the face, and rather unprocessed; no wonder Meryl Lee is beside herself. On the one hand, it's very effective writing, but it made me angry for the whole book. Again, effective, but I'm not sure how students will feel about it. Since students rarely look for sequels to books written before they were born, I'm just not sure if this would find many readers in my library. Reading this directly after reading The Wednesday Wars would be excruciating. What I really think: This is absolutely a well written and interesting book, but I hated the way it made me feel. I almost wish that Matt's story had been told on its own, or that he had been the primary character and Meryl Lee was someone who came into his world. Debating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    BarricadeBoiz

    This book was extremely wholesome. It explored themes like the Vietnam War, found family, and standing up for what you believe in. The only thing that brought the book down was Matt's storyline, especially the ending. There were parts where the reader got a lot of information about him and then parts where he seemed just thrown in there just to make the book longer. I loved the message that just because you don't immediately get along with someone doesn't mean that you can't be nice to them and This book was extremely wholesome. It explored themes like the Vietnam War, found family, and standing up for what you believe in. The only thing that brought the book down was Matt's storyline, especially the ending. There were parts where the reader got a lot of information about him and then parts where he seemed just thrown in there just to make the book longer. I loved the message that just because you don't immediately get along with someone doesn't mean that you can't be nice to them and try to be in their shoes. When the main character did that, it was so wholesome to see all the character development. I also enjoyed seeing the impact the Vietnam War had on American families and how the author covered grief. Overall while not my favorite of this author's books, I still really liked it. 4.5 stars out of 5. Also the headmistress reminds me of one the best teachers I have ever had so that’s always awesome to read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katie Fitzgerald

    Meryl Lee Kowalski is devastated when, between seventh and eighth grades, her close friend, a beloved character from The Wednesday Wars (2007), is killed in a tragic accident. Unable to stand the thought of returning to Camillo Junior High School, she enrolls in a girls' boarding school where Mrs. MacKnockater is the headmistress. Mrs. MacKnockater is sympathetic to the boarding school students and also to a young man named Matt who is on the run from danger but has sought refuge at Mrs. MacKnoc Meryl Lee Kowalski is devastated when, between seventh and eighth grades, her close friend, a beloved character from The Wednesday Wars (2007), is killed in a tragic accident. Unable to stand the thought of returning to Camillo Junior High School, she enrolls in a girls' boarding school where Mrs. MacKnockater is the headmistress. Mrs. MacKnockater is sympathetic to the boarding school students and also to a young man named Matt who is on the run from danger but has sought refuge at Mrs. MacKnockater's house. As Meryl Lee and Matt both face their individual fears and forms of pain, they also turn toward each other in friendship and perhaps a bit more. I have to admit that, after Schmidt killed one of my favorite middle grade characters of all time in the first chapter of this book, I was almost not going to read the rest of the story. As a one-time creative writing student, I admire his willingness to take a risk, but as a reader who counts The Wednesday Wars in her top 10 children's books of the last 20 years, I felt like this was a cruel way to open the book, and though the rest of the story turns out to be wonderful, I still think the character in question died in vain. Schmidt could have had Meryl Lee mourn almost any loss; I would love to hear the author's thinking behind his decision. All that aside, however, because Schmidt is an author whose books I consistently love, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. The book was so engrossing that I wound up reading it all in one night, staying up until after 2 a.m. to finish, and I couldn't bring myself to give it fewer than five stars. The writing in this book is amazingly vivid. It's not flowery, but the descriptions are almost deceptively evocative. Without realizing it was happening, I built up images in my mind of Meryl Lee's school, her dormitory, Mrs. MacKnockater's house, and all the people and places Matt remembers from his previous life. Schmidt also does a nice job of balancing tension and hope. There are lots of very difficult moments for each of the characters, but there is never sense that they are insurmountable. Gary Schmidt really effectively infuses this story with heart, and it becomes impossible not to love the characters. Were he to kill one of these characters, I would be just as devastated as I was over the death that occurs in Chapter One of this book. My recommendation to Schmidt fans is to stick with the book. It's definitely reasonable to be angry over a death that may seem gratuitous, but it would be a shame to miss the rest of this wonderful story because of that. If you've never read The Wednesday Wars, my suggestion would be to read that first, and then read Okay for Now (2011), and only then pick up Just Like That. Reading this book immediately after The Wednesday Wars would be kind of emotionally torturous, I think, as would reading Just Like That first. But do read them all. Schmidt is a brilliant writer even if I don't think his big writing risk has quite paid off. Thanks to Clarion Books and Edelweiss+ for the digital review copy. This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    That hurt. But in the best way. It hurt, then broke your heart, then pulled all the little pieces together, and handed it back to you, and you were better from it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    There are just some authors that you know, when you open their books, you are in for a read that will touch your heart. Schmidt is one of those authors - his books acquaint you with characters that will change your life for the good. This is no exception. This is the story of Meryl Lee as she is sent off to boarding school because, for one, she can’t seem to cope with the loss of her best friend, and two, because her parents are going to divorce and don’t want her to see any of it happening. But There are just some authors that you know, when you open their books, you are in for a read that will touch your heart. Schmidt is one of those authors - his books acquaint you with characters that will change your life for the good. This is no exception. This is the story of Meryl Lee as she is sent off to boarding school because, for one, she can’t seem to cope with the loss of her best friend, and two, because her parents are going to divorce and don’t want her to see any of it happening. But Meryl Lee is a force for good and even though she doesn’t want to be at the school - she plants herself and makes a difference. I know it’s not an adult read - that’s good. Read it - it has so much we need more of in our world today!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashton

    You know it's a good book when it seamlessly references and ties in other pieces of great literature. Gary Schmidt delivers once again. Whether it's the 1960's or present day, he really brings out the beauty in the every day. Now, here I am, just trying to string a few sentences together as well as he does for an entire novel and ..... probably just going to end this by saying that yes, it deserves all 5 stars. (The Wednesday Wars is still my favorite of the Schmidt novels, but that set the bar so You know it's a good book when it seamlessly references and ties in other pieces of great literature. Gary Schmidt delivers once again. Whether it's the 1960's or present day, he really brings out the beauty in the every day. Now, here I am, just trying to string a few sentences together as well as he does for an entire novel and ..... probably just going to end this by saying that yes, it deserves all 5 stars. (The Wednesday Wars is still my favorite of the Schmidt novels, but that set the bar so high that this still earns 5 stars)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel {bibliopals}

    There are some authors who take life- the messy and the ordinary bits- and describe it in words that stay with you long after you finish reading the last page. Gary D. Schmidt does it "just like that." Some fans have heard of the heartbreaking loss we learn about in the first pages of this book concerning a beloved character from The Wednesday Wars. Uprooted from all that is comfortable, Meryl Lee Kowalski's faces her deep grief in a new boarding school in Maine. Surrounded by the unknown, Meryl There are some authors who take life- the messy and the ordinary bits- and describe it in words that stay with you long after you finish reading the last page. Gary D. Schmidt does it "just like that." Some fans have heard of the heartbreaking loss we learn about in the first pages of this book concerning a beloved character from The Wednesday Wars. Uprooted from all that is comfortable, Meryl Lee Kowalski's faces her deep grief in a new boarding school in Maine. Surrounded by the unknown, Meryl Lee is challenged by the headmistress to be "Accomplished" during the opening address to the students: "She spoke about Obstacles that come to everyone in life. She spoke about the Resolution we need to face Obstacles. She spoke about how Resolution leads to Accomplishments." Obstacles. Resolution. Accomplishment. Three repeating words that can haunt or guide Meryl Lee through the year. She must decide. This post is already longer than my normal post and I haven't told you anything about the other characters in the book! Matt Coffin with his past that won't stay behind him; strong and supportive Dr. MacKnocker who earns the nickname "Bagheera" 💓; Bettye Buckminister a relative from another of GDS's books; and many schoolmates who are also navigating through trials of their own. Now this post is extremely long and I haven't chatted about GDS's quirks I've come to love in his books: character cameos from his past works, connections to quality literature, and always added humor for relief during heavy topics covered. Please, please, please read his books! 😁💛

  10. 5 out of 5

    DaNae

    Once I was able to forgive the first chapter, Gary Schmidt reminded me why he on my favorites list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    LibraryLaur

    I just love Gary Schmidt. His books are as profound for adults as they are for kids, and I hope he wins another Newbery for this. Scroll down to find out why (spoiler alert!) I didn't give it 5 stars. *Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing an e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I had to deduct a point for killing off a beloved character. I just love Gary Schmidt. His books are as profound for adults as they are for kids, and I hope he wins another Newbery for this. Scroll down to find out why (spoiler alert!) I didn't give it 5 stars. *Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing an e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I had to deduct a point for killing off a beloved character.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie’s Picks: JUST LIKE THAT by Gary D. Schmidt, Clarion, January 2021, 400p., ISBN: 978-0-544-08477-3 “‘All the same,’ said the Scarecrow, ‘I shall ask for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one.’ ‘I shall take the heart,’ returned the Tin Woodsman, ‘for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.’ Dorothy did not say anything, for she was puzzled to know which of her two friends was right.” -- L. Frank Baum, THE Richie’s Picks: JUST LIKE THAT by Gary D. Schmidt, Clarion, January 2021, 400p., ISBN: 978-0-544-08477-3 “‘All the same,’ said the Scarecrow, ‘I shall ask for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one.’ ‘I shall take the heart,’ returned the Tin Woodsman, ‘for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.’ Dorothy did not say anything, for she was puzzled to know which of her two friends was right.” -- L. Frank Baum, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900) “Little birdie, little birdie Come sing to me your song I’ve a short while to be here And a long time to be gone” -- Pete Seeger, from “Concert at Town Hall” (1963) I read for entertainment, for knowledge, and for finding meaning in life. For me, Gary D. Schmidt’s tales are particularly entertaining and meaningful. JUST LIKE THAT, his latest work of historical fiction, is a near-perfect story that brings together characters from several of Schmidt’s previous works. In the same way that it feels to reunite with old friends after a long hiatus, it was an emotional experience to connect again with the characters Schmidt had introduced me to over the years. Not every amazing book stretches out into a long, multi-book series like HOMECOMING, ROLL OF THUNDER, and HARRY POTTER (some of my favorite series), but I hadn’t yet had enough of these characters. It was exciting that Gary Schmidt continued the story lines from THE WEDNESDAY WARS and OKAY FOR NOW. And it really blew my mind to have him bring us back to the land of LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY. The characters of THE WEDNESDAY WARS would be memorable to any reader, but I was especially connected because the story was set in my childhood stomping grounds, and Holling Hoodhood, Doug Swieteck, and Meryl Lee Kowalski were in seventh grade during the 1967-68 school year, just like me. I imagine myself crossing paths with these kids at some point in my early years. That’s why I cried within a minute of starting this book. We last saw Holling on page 12 of OKAY FOR NOW. Doug, the central character in that book, was about to move upstate. Holling came by to say goodbye and give Doug his precious Yankees warmup jacket autographed by Joe Pepitone. Now, at the end of the summer. Holling has befallen a terrible fate, and “just like that,” is dead and buried. Meryl Lee is beyond devastated. The new story is set in the 1968-69 school year, and features Meryl Lee and a new character, Matt Coffin. After Holling’s demise, Meryl Lee’s parents decide that she should not return to Camillo Junior HIgh. Instead, she is sent far away, to St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy in Maine. There, one of the old locals she will get to know is Willis Hurd, previously seen in LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY. In that story, set in 1912, Willis was a kid. Now he’s a grizzled, old, bayman. And he’s still friends with Turner Buckminster! Captain Willis Hurd takes Matt Coffin on as his crew. Matt, a mysterious boy with a good heart and strong work ethic, seems to have spent his life parentless and on the run. He doesn't know his birthday or exactly how old he is. In a backstory right out of OLIVER TWIST, Matt spent time as a captive in a child slave gang managed by Leonidas Shug. Matt was compelled to pickpocket in exchange for protection. (It’s intriguing to subsequently see Matt reading OLIVER TWIST, unable to put it down.) But when Shug murders Matt’s best friend Georgie, Matt grabs a pillowcase filled with Shug’s stash of hundred dollar bills and leaves town, running to escape Shug’s vengeance. In Maine, Matt also meets Dr. Nora MacKnockater, the headmistress of St. Elene’s and a friend of Captain Hurd. Dr. MacKnockater offers Matt a place to live and homeschools him, beginning with reading lessons. Meanwhile, at St. Elene’s, Meryl Lee is trying to adjust to her new surroundings. In a school full of snooty rich kids, Meryl Lee befriends a pair of young servant girls, whom many of the rich girls treat badly. Her kindness antagonizes Mrs. Connolly, a teacher who also objects to Meryl Lee’s desire to use Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH for a term project. Mrs. Connolly considers Steinbeck a Communist and a valueless, lewd writer. Through Dr. MacKnockater, Meryl Lee gets to know Matt, and these struggling, damaged young people form a strong connection. As Meryl Lee and Matt get closer, the story takes a dramatic turn as Shug, ever present in the background, relentlessly tracks Matt. As readers, we root for the young couple on multiple levels. Like THE WEDNESDAY WARS, JUST LIKE THAT illustrates the polarization and culture wars of another era, reminding us that the good old days had their challenges. It takes place at the height of the Vietnam War, when the wealthy were using deferments to keep their sons out of service, while poor and minority kids were being drafted and becoming casualties. During the time that the story takes place, more than half a million young Americans were in uniform. The War becomes personal for several of the story’s characters Historical fiction set during an important time, characters one cares about, ethical questions, the salvation of an abused kid, adolescents taking care of each other, and a suspenseful chase--it all comes together in a story I couldn’t put down. I’d give this one ten stars out of five. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/ https://twitter.com/richiespicks [email protected]

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    It was snowy and very cold over the weekend so I read and read. Lucky me! Don't miss this 3rd book in Gary Schmidt's trilogy! Set in 1968, the thread of Vietnam war protests escalates as Meryl Lee Kowalski loses her best friend and is sent to the coast of Maine to an elite girls' school to begin 8th grade, held in what she calls "the blank" of grief. She faces snobby girls and teachers who cling to what's always been. As I read the beginning, I felt terrible for her, alone, parents seeming unab It was snowy and very cold over the weekend so I read and read. Lucky me! Don't miss this 3rd book in Gary Schmidt's trilogy! Set in 1968, the thread of Vietnam war protests escalates as Meryl Lee Kowalski loses her best friend and is sent to the coast of Maine to an elite girls' school to begin 8th grade, held in what she calls "the blank" of grief. She faces snobby girls and teachers who cling to what's always been. As I read the beginning, I felt terrible for her, alone, parents seeming unable to help so send her away. At the same time, I met Matt Coffin, same age, but on the run in a frightening way as it is revealed, he had been caught up in a group led by the criminal Leonidas Shug, whose gang had killed Matt's sweet best friend, Georgie. He's escaping, maybe. Setting up the alternate stories that bring good people helping into the story creates an emotional read as both Meryl and Matt need to escape again and again: Meryl questioning teachers then getting in trouble, Matt learning that there really isn't any place permanently called home. Literature keeps its thread, too, as Schmidt always does, this time The Wizard of Oz and Oliver Twist are part of the weft added so beautifully in this story. Beloved characters we meet also add to the weaving from the wise Dr. MacKnockater to the lobster boat Captain Hurd and Athletic Coach Rowlandson, plus those who help Matt on the run, and all those girls who reveal some traits that I suspect they didn't know they had! There is an added bonus of those political times, a visit from Vice-President Agnew that turns into some furor and fun in the midst of the story. Oh, it is a marvelous book that offers a range of emotions, a tension on the loom that never loosens, but there is always hope, too.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Kelleher

    After Meryl Lee’s best friend dies in an accident, she is sent to a private boarding school for a change of scenery. Every girl at St. Elene’s is expected to demonstrate Accomplishment, but Meryl Lee cannot get past The Blank that’s been with her since Holling’s death. Matt is a new arrival to town, but he never stays in one place for too long. Once he meets Headmaster Mrs. MacKnockater and Meryl Lee, though, he might just stick around. I loved so many things about this book. The story takes place After Meryl Lee’s best friend dies in an accident, she is sent to a private boarding school for a change of scenery. Every girl at St. Elene’s is expected to demonstrate Accomplishment, but Meryl Lee cannot get past The Blank that’s been with her since Holling’s death. Matt is a new arrival to town, but he never stays in one place for too long. Once he meets Headmaster Mrs. MacKnockater and Meryl Lee, though, he might just stick around. I loved so many things about this book. The story takes place over the 1968 -1969 school year, against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War and the election of Richard Nixon, which sets the stage for Meryl Lee’s nascent activism. Despite her grief, Meryl Lee starts to notice injustices closer to home, and begins to find her voice. Although there are teachers at the school who are resistant to change, there is no shortage of allies for Meryl Lee. There are lots of literary references. Themes from Meryl Lee’s school assignments on Mary, Queen of Scots and The Wizard of Oz are interwoven throughout the book as Meryl Lee struggles to find her Accomplishment. Teachers and students rotate through the library to read The Grapes of Wrath for “the lewd parts,” which no one can seem to find. A teacher starts a Literary Society that studies the writings of Shakespeare. Schmidt creates situations that bring unlikely pairs together, and over time, a tight band of friends forms. The girls express their camaraderie with the phrase “sticks up” (inspired by the school field hockey team), which is their shorthand for “man up,” “good luck,” “good job.” There is usually a despicable character in Schmidt’s books, and Just Like That is no exception. While Meryl Lee is fighting ideas at St. Elene’s, Matt is fighting a battle with his past demons. Even while Matt is settling in, Schmidt never lets the reader forget that trouble is on the way. Without giving away the ending, this was a humorous, moving, satisfying read. Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group, Clarion Books, and Netgalley for an Advanced Readers Arc of this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    JUST LIKE THAT is set in world of THE WEDNESDAY WARS and I love it! Out January 5, 2021! . . . Meryl Lee arrives at a boarding school on the coast of Maine in deep grief over the fatal loss of her best friend and potential boyfriend Holling Hoodhound. It is 1968 and the nation is at war in Vietnam. She is exhorted by the school headmistress, Dr. MacKnockater, to find something in which she can become Accomplished, but all Meryl feels is Blank. Matt Coffin has been taken in by Dr. MacKnockater, but he JUST LIKE THAT is set in world of THE WEDNESDAY WARS and I love it! Out January 5, 2021! . . . Meryl Lee arrives at a boarding school on the coast of Maine in deep grief over the fatal loss of her best friend and potential boyfriend Holling Hoodhound. It is 1968 and the nation is at war in Vietnam. She is exhorted by the school headmistress, Dr. MacKnockater, to find something in which she can become Accomplished, but all Meryl feels is Blank. Matt Coffin has been taken in by Dr. MacKnockater, but he refuses to talk about what happened in his past. He is harboring a secret about a violent past and desperately afraid that past will follow him to Maine where he has found relative safety. . . . Their stories intertwine during this school year in ways that are sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking. Enemies will become friends, everyone will grow and change, and Meryl Lee may even become Accomplished, as well. Just lovely. . . . Fun fact: one of the settings of this book is New Bedford, which also happens to be in the region where I live (just across the water) and is also where I got to meet author Gary D. Schmidt back in 2013!! He came to speak at the New Bedford Free Public Library. It ranks in my top 5 for favorite meetings with authors along with Padma Venkatraman, M.T. Anderson, Sharon Draper, and Penderwicks author Jeanne Birdsall!! Who are your favorite authors that you’ve met? (I’m dying to meet Nic Stone, Neal Shusterman, and Jason Reynolds!) . . . #middleschoollibrarian #middleschoollibrary #library #librarian #futurereadylibs #iteachlibrary #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram #librariesfollowlibraries #librarylife #librarianlife #schoollibrarian #middlegrade #middlegradebooks #iteach #librarylove #booksbooksbooks #amreading #bibliophile #schoollibrariansrock #bookreview #bookrecommendation #igreads #malibrary #msla #mediaspecialist

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)

    *recommend that you read The Wednesday Wars first. Welp, it's 3 a.m., and here I sit, wiping away tears as I wonder how in the hell I will ever be able to do this review any justice. Probably won't, but I'll try my best. Dissection was a somewhat larger theme of this book, so I'll continue in that same vein and say that Gary D. Schmidt is bloody brilliant at opening up your heart and poking around inside. He's not afraid to expose the sad and scary bits, but he also doesn't hold back on the hear *recommend that you read The Wednesday Wars first. Welp, it's 3 a.m., and here I sit, wiping away tears as I wonder how in the hell I will ever be able to do this review any justice. Probably won't, but I'll try my best. Dissection was a somewhat larger theme of this book, so I'll continue in that same vein and say that Gary D. Schmidt is bloody brilliant at opening up your heart and poking around inside. He's not afraid to expose the sad and scary bits, but he also doesn't hold back on the heartwarming and loving moments. His characters become cherished friends that you care about and cheer for as they navigate loss, friendship, coming of age, and the ever-changing tide of life. The one thing I probably won't forgive, ever, is the abrupt killing of an amazing character. G. Schmidt, you didn't need to break my heart by page 2. I forgive you because you did put it back together by the end, even if the pieces weren't quite the same fit. Schmidt doesn't necessarily revel in the fast-paced drama, so I wouldn't go into this expecting lots of action. BUT, if you are looking for deeply moving character development, that feeling when you first watched Dead Poet's Society or read Anne of Green Gables, this book needs to go to the top of your list. Sticks down, readers. Things can change just like that. *arc given for honest review

  17. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    I almost put this down after the first two pages. Gary Schmidt, how could you do this to us?!? But this book is so perfectly written that I might forgive you for the sad shock. Might.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Espinosa

    As a daughter of a Vietnam helicopter pilot, I was immediately drawn into this book. There were some parts of this book that I loved! There were other parts that I did not like so much. SPOILERS BELOW. What I loved: • The way grief was dealt with. Grief is so hard to explain to middle school students. It is nebulous and difficult. This book didn’t over explain or put a lot of “clinical” terms on grief. It let grief roll over and through all the characters very organically. It allowed different typ As a daughter of a Vietnam helicopter pilot, I was immediately drawn into this book. There were some parts of this book that I loved! There were other parts that I did not like so much. SPOILERS BELOW. What I loved: • The way grief was dealt with. Grief is so hard to explain to middle school students. It is nebulous and difficult. This book didn’t over explain or put a lot of “clinical” terms on grief. It let grief roll over and through all the characters very organically. It allowed different types of grief to connect and separate characters. It would not be a stretch to call grief a character in this book. • The setting is so beautifully explained. You could see and feel every scene, building, and storm. • The character and story line of Matt Coffin was beautiful. I was so drawn to his story line and struggles. He shown in every scene. What I struggled with: • The story is set with eighth graders. These children were roughly 12-14 years old. In my opinion, they were placed in a lot of mature relationships with a lot of mature sexual issues. Early on in the story, one girl asks another girl “is it true they wear nothing under their kilts?” There is a lot of kissing between the two main characters, setting them up for a romantic relationship. The book ends with these two children being left alone in a house while the guardians leave on vacation with no supervision. I wish either the characters were in high school or these scenes were taken out. • Meryl Lee had too many issues to tackle. Any one of them would make for a great story. I wish the author would have focused on Meryl Lee’s ability to bring everyone together. It would have made the story line tighter. But she brings people together, takes on social norms, fights against the Vietnam War, deals with grief, saves Matt, and gets good grades all at the same time. There was too much going on for one eighth grader. Bottom line, an adult, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to my friends and their high schoolers. As an elementary and middle school librarian, I will not be putting this in my library due to the age inappropriate relationships. I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy. The opinions expressed in this review are all mine. #netgalley #justlikethat

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    Wanted to love this book (and there's lots to love about it) but there were some things that didn't quite mesh for me so I wound up liking-not-loving. Set in New England boarding school against backdrop of Vietnam war and featuring 2 kids, one grieving and one recovering(?) from trauma. Lots of wonderful human nature stuff and some fantastic supporting characters. Wanted to love this book (and there's lots to love about it) but there were some things that didn't quite mesh for me so I wound up liking-not-loving. Set in New England boarding school against backdrop of Vietnam war and featuring 2 kids, one grieving and one recovering(?) from trauma. Lots of wonderful human nature stuff and some fantastic supporting characters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Ford

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have a great affinity for Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. I don’t know why other than I love it. That being said when this book started off with Meryl Lee Kowalski I was excited, much like when Doug reappeared in Okay For Now. Then, on the same page Holling Hoodhood died. Y’all I cried. I was as sad as Meryl Lee. “The Blank” follows Meryl Lee through this story as she deals with her grief as she attends a boarding school in Maine. The journey through the year with Meryl Lee soothed my heart , mu I have a great affinity for Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. I don’t know why other than I love it. That being said when this book started off with Meryl Lee Kowalski I was excited, much like when Doug reappeared in Okay For Now. Then, on the same page Holling Hoodhood died. Y’all I cried. I was as sad as Meryl Lee. “The Blank” follows Meryl Lee through this story as she deals with her grief as she attends a boarding school in Maine. The journey through the year with Meryl Lee soothed my heart , much like it did Meryl Lee’s. Grades 6-9

  21. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    Wow. Well, that was about the most devastating book I've ever read. I was sobbing by page 2. If you need a book about heartbreaking loss, grief (described as the Blank), hope and healing. It's quite good. But just be prepared to feel every bit of loss and grief. But I had to knock off two stars for sending me into a mild depression. Side note: I did appreciate the connection to Lizzie Birght and the Buckminster Boy. Wow. Well, that was about the most devastating book I've ever read. I was sobbing by page 2. If you need a book about heartbreaking loss, grief (described as the Blank), hope and healing. It's quite good. But just be prepared to feel every bit of loss and grief. But I had to knock off two stars for sending me into a mild depression. Side note: I did appreciate the connection to Lizzie Birght and the Buckminster Boy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Good story about grief, finding yourself, and hope. Meryl Lee suffers a loss and her parents send her to a boarding school for a fresh start. There she finds her voice, makes friends, and meets Matt. Matt has been on his own for along time, running from a gang, looking for someplace to call home. Together, the two find something worth staying for.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Kim

    5 stars, but as the book went on, I wasn't sure whether this was really a 5 star book or Schmidt was just fooling me and the book doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. Like some of his other "realistic" books, a great deal of suspension of disbelief is needed, and in the end this should be read as escapist or perhaps even moreso, a morality play -- there aren't a lot of shades of gray here. 5 stars, but as the book went on, I wasn't sure whether this was really a 5 star book or Schmidt was just fooling me and the book doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. Like some of his other "realistic" books, a great deal of suspension of disbelief is needed, and in the end this should be read as escapist or perhaps even moreso, a morality play -- there aren't a lot of shades of gray here.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Zahrt

    The only reason this isn't a 5 is because while I LOVE Gary Schmidt's writing, this follows the same kind of story line as many of his other books. That and nothing can compare to "Wednesday Wars." That being said, I still love his style of writing, his characters, etc. He is just spot on in my opinion. Get ready for a sucker punch to your gut on page 2. I almost died. "Sticks down, Kowalski." The only reason this isn't a 5 is because while I LOVE Gary Schmidt's writing, this follows the same kind of story line as many of his other books. That and nothing can compare to "Wednesday Wars." That being said, I still love his style of writing, his characters, etc. He is just spot on in my opinion. Get ready for a sucker punch to your gut on page 2. I almost died. "Sticks down, Kowalski."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan Kaeb

    This book is one more proof of why Gary D Schmidt is my favorite author. His stories always involve hard, sad things, but they are also filled with so much heart and hope. His characters are the kind that become friends and his words are a gift, truly a gift, to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    F.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I wanted to love this as I’ve loved Gary D. Schmidt’s other books, but I ended up skimming about halfway through. It feels like there are two different stories packed into one here. Matt’s story has such a different tone, he could very well have had his own book. He didn’t need to be in this one. And if he absolutely needed a love interest, it didn’t have to be Meryl Lee, either. It could have been anyone else. My guess is that Schmidt wasn’t used to writing from a female perspective, and ended u I wanted to love this as I’ve loved Gary D. Schmidt’s other books, but I ended up skimming about halfway through. It feels like there are two different stories packed into one here. Matt’s story has such a different tone, he could very well have had his own book. He didn’t need to be in this one. And if he absolutely needed a love interest, it didn’t have to be Meryl Lee, either. It could have been anyone else. My guess is that Schmidt wasn’t used to writing from a female perspective, and ended up using Matt as a crutch. Another thing that bothered me was the setting of Meryl Lee’s story. Did she really have to go to boarding school to learn about Real Life Issues like social class? Do Real Life Issues not exist back home? And speaking of home, Meryl Lee is also suddenly confronted with the breakdown of her parents’ marriage. This just felt unnecessary to me. Meryl Lee’s story was going in all directions, and I couldn’t find it in me to follow along after a while. I hope I’ll fare better with Schmidt’s next book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Of all of this author’s books that I’ve read, this one is my least favorite. I kinda felt like parts of the storyline were a little bit far fetched. Despite that, there were enough characters and storylines that touched my heart, that I have it 4 stars anyway.

  28. 4 out of 5

    N

    I got an egalley of this in exchange for a review. The characters in this book were really interesting. I loved the many references to literary works throughout. For my Postcard Field Trip curriculum, I loved how much history and place were weaved into the fabric of the story. (view spoiler)[ I want to know where Matt is during the protest. He would be going to classes... why didn't he stop to talk or find out what was going on? That left me confused. (hide spoiler)] Definitely buying with grant I got an egalley of this in exchange for a review. The characters in this book were really interesting. I loved the many references to literary works throughout. For my Postcard Field Trip curriculum, I loved how much history and place were weaved into the fabric of the story. (view spoiler)[ I want to know where Matt is during the protest. He would be going to classes... why didn't he stop to talk or find out what was going on? That left me confused. (hide spoiler)] Definitely buying with grant money to include in my school library.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie Proctor

    I’m not sure how this guy continues to write absolutely perfect books but I loved this one SO much. I read it slow bc I wanted to savor. I laughed and I cried and I held my breath (bc there are some scary things that happen!!!) but it was absolute perfection.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Debby

    Breaks your heart in first chapter and takes the rest to put it back together. As a fan of Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now, I loved this!

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