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Review: The Best Worst Thing

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Cover of The Best Worst ThingThe Best Worst Thing follows Maggie, a worried girl about to start middle school. With a murderer on the loose, a bully soon receiving a gun, rabbits held captive next door, and a mysteriously moody sister, there’s a lot that has her concerned and she doesn’t like it at all. She tries to control her world – she counts, repeats the words to keep everyone safe – but finds that may not be enough. She may need to take matters into her own hands and put herself in potential danger.

This little novel by Kathleen Lane is simply told but quite moving in its own way. It’s not really a novel that will leave you in tears, but it captures the anxieties of a middle school girl in a heartfelt and genuine manner. It leans a little bit more to a slice-of-life plot than an action driven plot (which some may not like, especially given the mention of a murder in the description), but I thought that made it seem grounded and perhaps more true to reality.

This book expertly shows how perceptive children are and puts a spotlight on anxiety and OCD (though it doesn’t explicitly name these things). It achieves this through the first person narration of Maggie, who routinely recites words and counts as part of her way of dealing with her worries. While these rituals are part of Maggie’s narration, they lend an almost poetic structure to the novel and smooth out transitions between scenes.

Maggie is the middle child, trapped between not wanting to appear weak, odd, or annoying to her older sibling and wanting to run around and play with her younger sister while protecting her from harsh realities. Perhaps it’s because I’m a middle child, but I enjoy getting the perspective of those stuck in between. Though may blow things out of proportion and obsess, her concerns are largely real concerns. They are¬†rooted in the desire to keep her friends, family, and even those she is unsure of safe from guns, murderers, and other dangers. Thus, she demonstrates empathy while being quite easy to empathize with herself.

Final verdict: The Best Worst Thing is a quick little novel with its strength in characterization and perception.

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