In Your Shoes by Donna Gephart (October 9, 2018, Delacorte Press, 336 pages, for ages 8 to 12).
Synopsis (from the publisher):
Miles is an anxious boy who loves his family's bowling center.
Amy is the new girl at school, who tries to write her way to her own happily-ever-after and does not want to live above her uncle's funeral home
Then Miles and Amy meet in the most unexpected way... and it is the beginning of everything.
Why I recommend it: The publisher's synopsis doesn't tell you much, but this is one of those sort-of-sad-but-not-too-sad books about a dead mother, specifically Amy's. However, Miles is dealing with his own grief, having recently lost his beloved grandmother. But the way they meet is more like slapstick humor (his bowling shoe, tossed in the air, meets her forehead) and there's a lot of realistic middle-school awkwardness along the way. I'd almost tag this Upper MG because one of the major plot points involves a school dance and the ensuing drama.
The characters are delightfully real, the dialogue is spot-on, and the setting is small-town Pennsylvania (woo hoo!). There's a wonderful, caring librarian named Mr. Schu (which, no doubt, some of you will understand, besides the obvious homonym). The only thing I could have done without is the nosy narrator intruding every once in a while. Just let me lose myself in the story! Don't keep reminding me it's a story.
It's not a big deal, though, because Donna Gephart has mastered this dual POV novel (in third person), and she's not afraid to delve into difficult questions of life and death, of shyness, and of overcoming odds, both physical and emotional. In lesser hands it would have fallen apart.
Favorite lines: (from p. 37) Get up, sweets. You're not going to let a little thing like an airborne bowling shoe hold you back. Are you?
Amy shook her head in answer. She loved when her mom's voice floated into her head. It seemed to come when she needed it most, and it made her feel less alone, more brave.
Visit Donna Gephart