25 Roses: 12/20/15
Valentine's Day was a popular topic this year in middle grade fiction. It seems like an odd choice to me as that's the age when kids are too old to bring cards and candies for an entire class but too young to be really dating anyone. This is the age of receiving those awkward cards from grandparents who like to send a card for every single holiday.
25 Roses by Stephanie Faris is centered on a fundraising event at a middle school. Different grades compete in the selling and delivering chocolate roses to students. The idea is that someone buys a chocolate rose for someone else and writes a note that the recipient can read when the roses are passed out.
The rose buying falls into three categories: roses for couples, roses for the popular kids, and self bought roses for those who don't want to feel left out. Left behind are the quiet kids who are too shy to interact with others and lacking even the self confidence to buy themselves a rose.
The grade that sells the most roses wins a lock in prize at a local popular hang out. Mia's sister helped win the prize for her grade years ago. Now she feels the pressure to also win but also to one up her sister.
Mia's competitive nature and her soft heart for the quiet kids sparks a good idea that is horribly executed. She decides to buy roses for all the kids who never get roses. She signs the cards a "secret admirer." The only problem here is that not many kids actually sold roses, so it's hard for Mia to hide the fact that she bought them. Also the reactions of the kids who receive them isn't what she expected.
This book is about the fallout from Mia's gesture. It seems with this books the reactions of the adults never quite balance with reality. They either ignore everything or blow everything up into a big deal with major consequences. At worst, Mia's class should have been disqualified from the competition but instead it's treated like some major piece of bullying.
Mostly though it felt like a plot that belonged in a high school rather than a junior high or middle school. Mia and the others act older than they are cast.