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Libby in the Middle

The author has written many books for young readers, and this, her latest, is a very engaging story. It talks about so many relevant issues for today’s young readers. In fact, it is really a snapshot of family life here and now, with such common issues as cyber bullying, anxiety and family relationships being raised.  The scenarios are relevant and show how young people can tackle an issue and not feel isolated and alone.

 We meet Libby, the narrator, and middle child, with two other sisters. Their family has been a close and loving one, but suddenly Bella, the older sister, has become a teenager in love. This is causing friction with her father who is very protective of his elder daughter. Father’s sister, who is disliked by the family, has offered to fund the girls’ fees at an exclusive girls’ school. The family will have to move back to the town where Dad was raised, and though he instantly refuses, Mum cajoles him into realising that it will be a great educational opportunity for the girls. Also, it will get Bella, the older sister, away from Sam, her boyfriend.

 The family moves to the country, and unbeknownst to them, Bella’s boyfriend moves there too. When Libby finds out, she is torn between wanting the sisterly bond to be strong and loyalty to her parents. She keeps the secret, but when Bella steals some money to help Sam out, things get out of hand. Meanwhile, Dad has to cope with his sister who has become rather insular living by herself, and she tends to say just what she is thinking. He had an unhappy childhood, with an overbearing father, and returning home brings back many sad memories for him.

 Each of the family members has to confront a change of sorts. For the youngest child, Gracie, it is moving house, for Libby, it is always feeling like she is in the middle of the family, and how she will cope at a new school. For Bella, falling in love and being able to speak freely to her parents, seems an unachievable goal. Mum has found a job straight away, and so the financial pressure that existed before is eased. Dad is the one to confront most of the issues. He has never spoken much about his past, and gradually past events come to light, which he has to face and share.

 This story just seems to reflect the real world as it is created from so many very real day- to- day happenings. How people cope and their individual strengths and weaknesses are shown. For all that happens, this is written with humour and a great understanding of family love and care. All of the characters are well rounded and real which makes for a delightful read, with a happy ending.



AuthorGwyneth Rees
PublisherBloomsbury Children
ReleasedJanuary 2018