My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Please Note: Review of an Advance Reader Copy. Book publishes May 2020.
It’s a new school year, and for best friends, Keiko, Audrey, and Jenna, 7th grade should be epic! They’ll be in some of the same classes, have lunch together, join a few clubs so they can hang out after school, and…this is the year that they’re going to have boyfriends! Sounds simple, right? But one misunderstanding leads to another, causing an irreparable rift in their friendship. When it comes down to having to decide between boyfriends and best friends, what will Keiko do?
I enjoyed getting to know Keiko and her heart for her friends and family. She is friendly, she is fair, and she does not like to stir up trouble. She really just wants everyone to be happy and she’ll work to see to it that they are but it doesn’t mean she has to do so at the expense of her own happiness. She shouldn’t always have to be the one to compromise. It leads her to consider what true friendship really looks like. It’s something we all have to consider at some point or another.
Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of the Jasmine Toguchi series (read my review of Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl here) and the My Furry Foster Family series for young readers. Keep it Together, Keiko Carter is her debut middle grade book. It speaks to the reality of the complexities of middle school friendships. The highs and lows. Those really good moments where friends love each other like crazy, have each other’s backs and are thick as thieves – best friends who are more like sisters. As well as the friendship fallouts over a misunderstanding, or simply the changing nature of their relationships as they start to mature, discover new interests, and sometimes grow apart.
As a parent, I was especially pulled in, paying full attention to the changing relationship that was happening between Keiko’s mother and their family. Mom’s work-family balance was steadily tipping towards being more and more consumed with her job, and being less engaged with her husband and children. It worried Keiko because she’d seen Jenna’s family go through a divorce and she didn’t want that for her family. It angered Keiko because her mother wasn’t there when she needed someone to talk to about all of the craziness that was disrupting her usually untroubled friendships. Yes, Keiko had proven herself to be mature and responsible, but it was not her job to fix everything or to make sure that everyone else was happy. She’s at that age where she is rightfully flexing her independence muscles but at the same time still needs the guidance, comfort, and care of her family, especially from her mom.
I love this book because of the sweet subtle moments that happen along the way that warmed my heart. I also love this book and Keiko because she is a serious chocolate lover and because she makes a hot chocolate that sounds out of this world yummy! I hope that the finished copy of this book will have a recipe for her special, homemade spicy cocoa.
I would recommend this book to students in 5th grade and up, though it will likely appeal to readers in 4th grade too. As a mom who used to run a summer book club with my 15-year-old daughter when she was younger, I could see this book being a great choice to read with friends, as well as a good pick for a mother-daughter book club.
Debbi Michiko Florence | http://debbimichikoflorence.com/
Nerdy Book Club – Cover Reveal and Interview | https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2019/08/19/cover-reveal-for-keep-it-together-keiko-carter-by-debbi-michiko-florence/
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