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Cavanaugh, Nancy J.
New York : Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014
IL 5-8, RL 4.8
ISBN 149263557X

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When Abigail’s dreams of becoming a pom-pom girl are dashed, she finds herself in the unlikely situation of having to choose between her two best friends and the school’s biggest outcast. Always, Abigail begins with Abigail and her two best friends, Alli and Cami, (a.k.a. AlliCam) poised for a long life of pom-poms and popularity. But for Abigail, her own insecurities and lack of confidence—coupled with her bad luck of being assigned to a different homeroom than AlliCam—make for a rough start to sixth grade. Abigail uses her list writing to calm herself down and keep her anxiety at bay, which is why she tells her story through lists and letters. Being assigned to a different homeroom than AlliCam is only the beginning of her bad luck. What makes it worse is that Miss Hendrick, (a.k.a. Old Hawk) is her homeroom teacher. Old Hawk is the toughest, strictest teacher at Crestdale Heights. But even that’s not the worst of it. Old Hawk is also Abigail’s language arts teacher, and Old Hawk’s friendly letter assignment is what almost pushes Abigail over the edge. Old Hawk assigns Abigail to be friendly letter partners with Gabby Marco—the biggest outcast at Crestdale Heights. Being partners with Gabby is something that could ruin a person’s life. Abigail’s misery continues to grow as she feels herself being left out with AlliCam because of their inside jokes that don’t include her. Abigail’s lack of confidence about being good enough for poms grows until she’s unsure if she’ll even make the squad. To her surprise and relief, Abigail does well at tryouts. She’s thrilled to see her name posted on the squad roster. She’s even more thrilled when the other girls tell her the asterisk by her name probably means she’ll be named squad captain. Abigail finds out later what the asterisks really means—she’s an alternate, which means she’s really not a pom-pom girl at all. Her dreams of pom-poms and popularity are crushed in an instant, and as a result, she loses touch with AlliCam as they begin spending their time practicing poms and hanging out with the other girls on the squad. Abigail finds herself with nothing to do and no one to do it with. So in an effort to earn some much-needed extra credit points from Old Hawk, she ends up helping her teacher clean out a cabinet in her classroom. Volunteering to help her teacher is bad enough, but what makes it worse is that Gabby Marco volunteers too. The two friendly letter partners, who aren’t really friends at all, find themselves having to work very closely together. But to protect what little popularity she has left, Abigail keeps her distance from Gabby as best she can. Surprisingly though, the two girls find they have a common love of books, so they begin to connect as they sort through Old Hawk’s pile of old picture books. Eventually Old Hawk has the two girls partnered up to do a storytelling for the kindergarten class down the hall. Abigail keeps her involvement with Gabby on the down low so that AlliCam and the other students don’t realize the truth—that Abigail and Gabby are becoming more than just friendly letter partners. As Abigail and Gabby prepare for their first visit to the kindergarten class, they actually begin to enjoy spending time together. But just after their first storytelling session is a smash hit, Abigail’s circumstances change drastically: one of the pom girls get injured and is out for the rest of the season. Abigail goes from being an alternate to being a real pom-pom girl—her dreams are finally coming true! (© 2014, Sourcebooks (Prepared by: Donna Myles, Jackson School,, South Carolina Book Awards, 2017)

SUBJECTS:      Best friends -- Fiction. 

Friendship -- Fiction. 

Middle schools -- Fiction. 

Popularity -- Fiction. 

Schools -- Fiction.

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