SUMMARY: Three ninth grade girls living in San Antonio, TX play in the marching band and help each other deal with divorce, loss of a parent, family problems, self-image, and new relationships.
REVIEW: Olivia has become introverted since her dad’s sudden death two years ago. Fatima makes jokes to cover up her true feelings about her weight gain. Following her parents’ recent divorce, Vanna struggles with her less-privileged socioeconomic status and her mother’s new-found social life. Teachers, librarians, and parents: Do these girls sound like any middle schoolers you know?
I’ll admit it–I read Deep in the Heart of High School because I had to. Author Veronica Goldbach was nominated for the Spirit of Texas Reading Program this year, and being a member of the committee, this one was on my reading list. While I never would have chosen Deep in the Heart of High School for myself, Goldbach will definitely be getting my vote. This short novel is perfect for middle school girls.
Deep in the Heart of High School is realistic fiction at its most real, featuring normal, nice girls encountering the normal problems of normal teens. Are they perfect? No. All three girls make mistakes in judgment, but it is all part of growing up. The story is never melodramatic, and thankfully, no one is suicidal or cutting or acting out inappropriately. Fatima, Vanna, and Olivia actually sound like teen girls, blessedly without all the LOLs and OMGs. Parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends are important to the girls, more important than possessions or popularity or clothes. The thing is, I know these girls. I recognize them in the girls who come into my library, recognize them in myself.
As a Texas librarian, I love the San Antonio setting. If you haven’t been there, you really should make it a point to go. San Antonio is a fun place to visit with a culture all its own. Many of my students have visited San Antonio and will be thrilled to read about landmarks they have visited (The Alamo, The Riverwalk, Downtown). I would be surprised if the author did not live in San Antonio at some point; she clearly loves the area and knows it well. I also love the infusion of Spanish language within the text. Spanish words and their definitions flow naturally within the dialogue, and it makes sense that Spanish-speaking characters from Latinx families in Texas would think and speak in both Spanish and English. Once again, my students will identify.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With no language and very mild sexual content, I will be recommending Deep in the Heart of High School all over town. A MUST for middle school libraries, particularly those in Texas.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be popular because I loved it and will recommend it often.
READALIKES: The Sweetheart of Prosper County (Jill Alexander)
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 4/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: mild; some nondescript kissing
- Violence: none
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; at a party, teens smoke marijuana (protagonist declines)