Review: Chirp by Kate Messner

  • Genre: middle grade contemporary
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
  • Publication date: February 4, 2020

From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley.

Chirp is one of several middle grade books published recently adding to the national conversation on sexual assault and harrassment (usually called something related to “#MeToo,” even though talking about this is nothing new–it’s just louder with several high-profile milestones). Mia is noticing a lot of differences between how men and women are treated, and this brings up an experience she had herself and gives her the courage to speak up about it–even if it wasn’t the worse thing that could have happened. I found this commentary a little overly simplified and clear (and binary), but that seemed suited to the voice and psychology of the age. I loved that Mia’s experience was validated by others in her life, although I questioned why the narrative was interrupted to detail what happened to her in one long infodump chapter. Her trauma elsewhere is pretty evident, so it isn’t inconsistent.

Meanwhile, Mia is living with her grandmother who has just started a cricket farm, but the new business seems to have been sabotaged, and she and her new friend work to figure it out. She attends two different and very cool camps: a junior business creation, where she finds ways to promote her grandma’s business, and “Warrior Camp” where she builds up strength from her shoulder injury from gymnastics, a sport she has left for not only that reasons. I loved the atmosphere of the camps and how Mia met new friends and gained more confidence in new abilities.

The mystery I was the least interested in–I tend to not gravitate toward that sort of plot external to the characters like younger readers–so I ended up surprised at how well it worked out and the big reveal.

I’d classify Chirp for the younger middle grade crowd (maybe 8-11) because I think tweens can process a bit more complexity. I found Mia’s voice fantastic (even in the third person) and appreciated so many elements of the story. I know I need to read more Kate Messner!

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