The Meaning of Maggie

18656207I read Megan Jean Sovern’s The Meaning of Maggie while I was on vacation. The titular character charmed my pants off (not literally). She’s ambitious, nerdy, certain about her place in the world and so incredibly loved.

Maggie faces summer vacation pragmatically–counting down to school starting again and dutifully rising at the same time each day to prevent the need for a re-adjustment period. She decides that Clyde is “perfect” for her on the basis of one conversation, and when no one will tell her what’s happening to her dad, she hits the library.

That he’s dealing with MS will be obvious to adult readers, but the process of discovering it is meaningful for Maggie, and becomes meaningful for us. The elliptical nature of how the family addresses their dad’s illness surprised me, though. They don’t talk about it, they shelter Maggie from a lot of the details, and they keep repeating that things will be “okay” and he is “not going to die.” –the frame story of Maggie writing about this from her father’s hospital bedside gives lie to these assertions in some ways, but leaves it stand for the (young) readers in other ways.

The book is also historical in a way adult readers will enjoy. It’s set in 1988, when I myself was a fifth grader, so I recognized trapper keepers and color-coded notecards as the familiar detritus of school life. The parental throwbacks to the sixties were the reality of growing up with those parents at that time.

I admit, the writing was a little too “voicey” for me as a reader despite being 100% authentic to a sixth grader. And near the end, especially reading the acknowledgements, it became clear that the story is much more of a mem-novel than fiction. This left me a bit at odds on where to peg it if I loan it to students in the future.

But all in all, I’d recommend it alongside The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher and the Penderwicks for wholesome family relationships.


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