Who would ever choose to be twelve or in sixth grade? Wouldn’t it even be nice if parents could give their children and themselves a bye to just skip that year? Karen Romano Young in her middle grade novel Hundred Percent describes a common sixth grade perception well in the voice of Tink. “When it was just her, she sometimes felt beautiful. She liked herself. Alone, she was a sugar cube, settled, with firm edges and strong corners. But when other people were around she thought some of them were better – smarter, funnier, cuter, thinner, hotter, cooler – and she felt herself come apart a little, like sugar on the kitchen table, spilled from a spoon.”
Is she really Tink for Tinker Bell as she has been called since she was a small child? Or is she Chris, short for Christine Bernadette Gouda, a more grownup nickname bestowed by her best friend Jackie for their last year in elementary school? Or maybe Hundred Percent, given by Bushwhack, the boy whose sarcasm keeps the class laughing.
Does she need to keep up a relationship with her childhood best friend Jackie who stays on the edges of the “in” crowd, sometimes bringing Tink or Chris along with her? Tink questions her friend’s loyalty. “How many more times would she try those people on, like fancy clothes, and come back to Tink, who must have felt to her like cozy pajamas?”
The novel captures middle school stress as we get to know Tink aka Chris aka Hundred Percent. There are all those relationships to maneuver – friends, frenemies, parents, teachers. Her questions belong to the age. Am I part of the “in” group and do I even want to be? Is my physical development too fast or too slow? And the big question, in the midst of all this, who am I?
I read this book that goes on sale August 2 in an advance reading copy furnished by Net Galley. While the audience is limited to middle school girls, they will find a character and a story the validates this stage of their lives and even hints that better things may be ahead.