Photo via Goodreads.
Book Title: Surviving Gretchen
Author: Bonnie Daly
Introduction: I was given a copy of this novel for an honest review.
This story is a great middle-grade or pre-YA novel. It’s a contemporary, Disney Channel-esque book that will keep young readers interested. I definitely enjoyed this book on a middle-grade level. Bonnie Daly did a fantastic job writing towards her audience, and I’m sure that younger readers will relate to this story.
From an adult’s point of view there were definitely holes (Gretchen seems to be mean because she doesn’t have friends, but usually there is a reason behind the behaviour), but viewing it as if I was younger reading it, it makes sense. When I was a kid, it seemed like the bullies just picked on others for fun and not because they had issues in their own lives.
Some of the really fantastic parts within this story was the family and friendship relationships. Bonnie made these friendships seem real and honest, which is truly an incredible feat. There are many books I’ve read where I wonder how realistic the relationships are, but this book makes it very clear. I applaud Bonnie’s skill in writing that aspect of a novel.
I was slightly confused as to why there was a goat as a pet and why it seemed to take on more human characteristics – this book seemed to be quite realistic, but Ozzy felt out of place. At times, I felt like Bonnie was trying to make a character similar to Olaf and Sven and Pascal in the Disney-realm, but it just didn’t feel right in this setting. That being said, kids might really like a friendly goat in the story, I just know as an adult I found it quite silly and useless.
If anything, I really didn’t like the portrayal of Gretchen. I really wanted her to grow within the novel at some point – maybe she gets friends, maybe a reason is given for her behaviour, maybe she’s not the true villain – I wanted something, and I didn’t get it. Perhaps in further books she will be discussed, but for now I’m left feeling cheated. With the fantastic story building and relationships in this novel, having this wicked villain who’s just evil, “because” (and no other reason) made me want so much more. I finished the book and wondered if I was missing pages! This couldn’t be the climax and ending of the story! Gretchen needs her human-izing ending!
This book did a great job at being short and to the point. There were scenes that I felt could have been left out, but they made the book interesting. A majority of this book is cliche – it deals with preteens, bullying, diaries/journals, someone reading your journal, backstabbing, gossiping, and essentially every cliche in the book that can happen to 13 year olds. Although, the aspect of the story about what happens when friends get confused and assume things was very well written, so among the cliches there are some gems.
Overall, this book had it’s highs and it’s lows. As an adult, I expected more. As a younger reader, this might be the type of book they need. I’m not entirely sure, especially since as a younger reader I was more into the entire vampire scene and not the contemporary.
Three out of five stars.