Jennifer Chan is Not Alone

Middle school is filled with bad decisions, especially as young people are managing body changes alongside the social drama that inevitably arises during this time. Even in the small town of Norwell, Florida, students are reeling from the sudden and upsetting disappearance of one of their own. Nightly search parties scour the surrounding area for any sign of Jennifer Chan, while students seek answers from events that transpired in recent days. As secrets come to light, relationships shift and ebb, causing characters to reflect not only on this particular circumstance but also on everything that has led up to that point and how their actions may have been influential.

It is rare to find anyone who enjoyed their middle school years, and even more rare to find one who is absent any blame from social ridicule or judgement. This contemporary middle grade fiction story uses that reality as the core of the narrative, highlighting the emotional jockeying that inevitably occurs as middle grade students become more comfortable with who they are as individuals. Layered into this overarching message are mentions of challenging family dynamics, individual beliefs, and the intensity with which one will struggle for survival in the age-old social brawl that is middle school.

This story reads quickly, unfolding at once like a compelling mystery and like a cringe-worthy moment readers cannot take their eyes off of. Carefully selected language makes each character come alive and stand out from the rest, and inner thoughts propel readers of all ages back to this particular moment in their own lives. Though Jennifer Chan is the title character of this novel, it is primarily her essence and her memory that directs the plot itself, which moves back and forth in time as different facts are revealed. Her voice also appears in occasional mentions of her personal journal that plant even more breadcrumbs for readers to follow. This is a challenging and important piece of literature that brings attention to the effects of bullying and ways to improve daily interactions with others.

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