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Batman: Detective Comics, Volume 2: The Victim Syndicate by James Tynion IV, et. al.
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The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman and George Guidall (Narrator) (re-read)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman and Emily Rankin (Narrator)
Candy Slain Murder by Maddie Day and Laural Merlington (Narrator)
The Dachshund Wears Prada by Stefanie London
Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
Endangered Species by Nevada Barr and Cindy Williams (Narrator)
Final Sentence by Daryl Wood Gerber
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Harlem Sunset by Nekesa Afia and Shayna Small (Narrator)
Heartstopper: Volume Four by Alice Oseman
Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed
Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy
Into the Woods by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks (Illustrator)
The Marvelous by Claire Kann
Murder Is No Picnic by Amy Pershing and Patti Murin (Narrator)
My Dress-Up Darling, Volume 3 by Shinichi Fukuda
Noragami: Stray God, Volume 14 by Adachitoka
Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods by Catherynne M. Valente
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
Pint of No Return by Dana Mentink and Stephanie Nemeth-Parker (narrator)
Poultrygeist by Eric Geron and Pete Oswald (Illustrator)
The Sacred Bridge by Anne Hillerman
The Secret Staircase by Sheila Connolly and Emily Durante (Narrator)
Spy x Family, Volume 6 by Tatsuya Endo
The Suite Spot by Trish Doller
This Is a Book for People Who Love Birds by Danielle Belleny and Stephanie D Singleton (Illustrator)
Yokohama Station SF National by Yuba Isukari, Tatsuyuki Tanaka (Illustrator), and Stephen Paul (Translator)

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Ellen Outside the Lines: 10/25/22

Ellen Outside the Lines

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass (2022) is middle grade fiction about the way a class trip can change a person. Ellen Katz is thirteen, autistic and anxious. She's also Jewish and Southern with an Israeli mother. She's also a lesbian with a bi father. Basically it means a lot of ways to struggle to fit in and a lot of ways to be overwhelmed. She'll be put to the test during the ten day class trip to Barcelona especially once she learns that her Spanish teacher has changed how the trip will work!

Before I begin, I have to mention how close to home Ellen hit. She's so much like my daughter save for a couple details. I kept having to stop to read passages to my daughter. She's also like my oldest daughter who in fact went on a ten day Spanish class trip that included an extended stop in Barcelona.

Ellen we learn has been been planning for this trip for at least a year. She has a bullet journal full of the previous itinerary. She has noise cancelling headphones. Her father has come along as a chaperone in case she needs help advocating for herself. She and her long time best friend have managed to get a room together. So how will she be challenged beyond the expected jet lag, foreign language, and crowded city (which by themselves are already a lot!)?

It's a biggie: a scavenger hunt with teacher selected teams. Team work at home never goes well. It goes worse for neural diverse people. Turning a school trip into group work is a thousand times worse and frankly has me as an outside reader scratching my head!

Worse yet for Ellen, she's not on the same team as her roommate and best friend. I would think just to keep the tension lower and to prevent cheating or bullying, the teacher would at least assign teams based on rooms, rather than individuals in said rooms.

The one thing that Ellen "lucks" out on (although it's implied these teams weren't all that random to begin with) is that she's put on the oddball team. She's there with a nonbinary student, a boy with ADHD, and a gay boy. Though they weren't friends before being put together, they become friends over the course of the trip.

To get Ellen "outside the lines" this novel takes a ton of liberties with how school trips work. Readers who expect contemporary fiction to be as realistic as possible might find this novel annoying. Readers who are willing to let the novel take liberties to create situations that test the characters will find this book an engaging page turner.

Five stars

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