I picked up a copy of Jen Malone’s At Your Service at the 2015 New England SCBWI Conference after attending her great talk on middle grade voice. (Find the book review here.) I enjoyed the story and my 11-year-old daughter became a fan. She now knows to ask for Jen Malone books when I’m heading to the conference, so this year she got The Sleepover and Map to the Stars. Here’s what we thought:
Jen Malone’s The Sleepover is billed as The Hangover for the middle grade audience. It doesn’t disappoint! Twelve-year-old Meghan has never made it through the night at a sleepover, but she’s determined to make it through this one. Her two besties, Anna-Marie and Paige, promise it will be EPIC!
It turns out to be a little too epic. The girls wake up to a disaster of a basement and no recollection of what happened the night before. One of Meghan’s eyebrows is missing…and so is Anna-Maria! The girls need to straighten out the hijinks of the night before, all the while collecting clues about what happened to their missing friend, and they have only a couple hours until the parents show up for pick-up.
The Sleepover is great fun! Jen Malone nails the voice of her tween characters as well as their insecurities. The messes that the girls have gotten themselves into and their plans to fix them will make you squirm. The book ends with an invitation to another sleepover. Does this mean there will be a sequel? We hope so!
I couldn’t help but dive right into Map to the Stars . Annie, the main character, gets dragged to L.A.the summer before her senior year of high school following her Mom’s career as a make-up artist/hairstylist. But she can’t spend the summer worrying about new friends and a new school because she’s drafted into assisting her mom on a round-the-world publicity tour for teen-heart throb, Graham Cabot, the boy plastered in posters all over her best friend’s walls and ceiling.
Annie is anything but a star-struck fangirl, but she finds it hard to keep her heartbeat from speeding up when forced into close proximity to Graham – particularly after he rescues her from an attack by crazed fans at Harrods. Graham’s attention lingers on her, but a relationship between the them is complicated by paparazzi and a publicist set-against Graham having a girlfriend.
Jen Malone pulls you into the hearts and lives of Annie, a very likable and relatable character, and even Graham, who initially comes off as arrogant and annoying. She brings the reader along for a ride through heady emotions of a complicated first love. Map to the Stars is a page-turner, a great summer read.
Mom note: Map to the Stars is a young adult book, but is great for tweens who read up as it’s a step up from the world of middle school but doesn’t get more heavy than a couple kisses.
REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.