RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 4-7; With a head shot of a girl on the front cover, 5th and 6th grade girls will probably be most likely to read this one, but I think boys will enjoy it if they give it a chance. Lots for young readers to identify with.
SUMMARY: Sixth grader Ella is the only mixed race girl in a school where her classmates are all white. Nicknamed “Camo Face” for her mixed dark and light facial pigments, Ella endures bullying and name-calling at school every day. Until recently, Ella had two best friends. Then, last year, Millie started hanging out with the popular kids. Her other friend Zachariah (“Z”) displays increasingly odd behavior, as if he lives in a fantasy world. When a new boy moves in and seems interested in Ella, she is torn between loyalty to her best friend and the popularity she has always wanted.
WHAT I LIKED: Oh, I so loved this book! As cliched as the summary may sound, Camo Girl has nothing at all to do with popular cliques of mean girls or choosing your friend over popularity. Ella, Z, Millie, and Bailey are all believable characters facing realistic situations and plausibly resolving them as children of their age probably would. With regard to Z, Ella feels guilt, love, anger, and fiercely protective of Z, all at the same time. Ella knows what it is like to lose one friend, and she simply will not abandon Z, even though in some ways, she wishes she could.
When authors combine believable, likable characters, realistic situations and relationships, and lyrical prose, it’s a recipe for success. Nice job, Ms. Magoon.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I can’t think of one thing.
THEMES: friendship, beauty, love, protecting the weak, bullying, death of a parent, mental disorders (PTSD and whatever Z has that causes him to suspend reality)
FRONT COVER: Beautiful, pensive young girl who looks like she has troubles on her mind. Until I read the story, I thought the lighter pigment on her face was artistic lighting. The cover art perfectly mirrors Ella’s story and character.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Acquired in early May, two weeks before the cutoff for checkout for the year, this one has not been checked out yet. I am considering adding it to our school reading list next year.