Ah, seventh grade. Best known as the period during which beautiful, smart, confident children suddenly become awkward, self-conscious not-children-but-not-adults. Life suddenly produces all sorts of new pressures and expectations from parents, teachers, and friends. Kids quickly learn the meaning of unrequited love, and bullying takes on a whole new level. Seventh grade’s reputation is so bad I’ve actually met two different pro-school people who’ve made an exception for junior high or middle school, saying that it should be outlawed and homeschooling made mandatory for kids during those pubescent years. Yes, they were serious.
When things are tough, the clear solution is to find someone who has it worse. Kids at this stage in life often take comfort in reading about characters with which they can empathize but also laugh with – laugh at? – when embarrassing situations occur. That’s why Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) has been such a roaring success. Along the same vein is Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade): A Novel (Little, Brown, & Co., 2005/2006) by Denise Vega. The heroine Erin Swift isn’t pretty, isn’t popular, and isn’t really brainy either. She’s having a tough time navigating through seventh grade, which is filled with new experience after new experience and disappointment after disappointment. But she finds solace in her computer club activities and electronic diary keeping. Then comes the unexpected twist, and a slight nod to Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy (1964). Erin has to learn how to survive on a whole new level and learns some valuable lessons in the process.
Click Here was a quick, entertaining read. The characters were memorable. I also felt that there were a lot of positive lessons for kids: Don’t prejudge other kids. The person you’re avoiding now might turn out to be a terrific friend. You might not be good at everything, but you can find something that you enjoy that you are good at. It’s okay if your crush doesn’t work out. Just learn to move on.
The downside was that I never felt like someone my niece or nephew’s age was relating what happened at school last year. It was more like I was listening to someone much older reminiscing about her junior high experiences. I felt as though the author wasn’t making an effort to research about what kids today like, but instead chose to impose her own dated likes on her main character. A real seventh grader (or at least one uninterested in history) would have said that the history classroom was covered with posters of “a bunch of dead people.” rather than listing them by name, unless it really mattered to the plot. (And then it would’ve been better to just add that to the teacher’s dialogue.) When it came to costume issues, the original Karate Kid (1984) would’ve made a better “old movie” reference than To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). And Erin’s friendship with the school janitor might have seemed quaint decades ago, but it just came off as creepy in a more contemporary setting.
So if asked if I’d recommend Click Here, I can only offer a shrug. How the book’s strengths and weaknesses balance out would depend on the reader. Both parents and kids could find something to like about it, and maybe it would spark some healthy intergenerational discussion about the frustrations seventh graders are facing and have faced.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a First Reads giveaway winner on GoodReads.com. There was no obligation to write a review.