Review: Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

Title: Small Medium at Large

Author: Joanne Levy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: July 3rd, 2012

Interest: Positive Reviews / Debut Author / Middle Grade

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

In all honesty, I’m really picky about middle grade novels.  I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a high school English teacher and therefore more interested in young adult novels, or what, but I don’t always like middle grade novels.  I have a really difficult time connecting with them and enjoying them, so when I find one that I like I want to spread the word all over the place.  I didn’t just like Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy, I loved it.

Small Medium at Large released this week and positive reviews have been all over Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, so on an impulse I decided to get a copy.  It’s a short book, at only 208 pages, but it has the perfect blend of realistic situations, supernatural elements, and humor that amounts to one positively adorable and enjoyable book.  I’m not always sure what’s “okay” for middle grade readers, but I feel secure recommending Joanne Levy’s debut to 5th graders and above because it’s a clean book and the themes in the story aren’t too complex.  The characters aren’t doing anything questionable or using foul language.  There are discussions about “boobs” and kissing but that’s as far as it goes.  Considering I was reading Caroline B. Cooney books and the like in 5th grade, I think this one is okay (not that her books are bad, but there were some “big” issues in her books).

Lilah Bloom is such a cute character.  She ends up with the ability to hear ghosts after being struck by lightning and is pretty level-headed about the whole thing.  The first ghost she encounters is Bubby Dora, her grandmother who passed away four years ago.  I love her interactions with Bubby because Bubby acts as both an authority figure and a helpful friend.  The way she and Lilah spoke to each other made me think of what it would be like if I could talk again with my grandma who passed away when I was six; I think many of our interactions would be the same.  The ghosts, in general, are really amusing and bring out Lilah’s character.  Lilah is a very believable sixth grader simply trying to fit in, but now trying to do that with the ability to talk to ghosts.  She worries about boys, bras, and bullies.  Lilah also wants to help her dad get back into the dating scene; those scenes are some of the cutest.

I like that even though Small Medium at Large might be considered supernatural since Lilah is communicating with ghosts, it mostly reads as realistic fiction.  Lilah is experiencing many of the same things an average 12 year old experiences, only she has ghosts helping her out at times.  She has a close group of friends, she struggles in school sometimes, she’s dealing with a bully, and she’s crushing on a boy.

What really sets this book apart is its execution.  Joanne Levy really makes Lilah stand out and come alive on the page, along with all of the supporting characters.  There wasn’t a dull moment in the book.  Small Medium at Large is my favorite book of the summer so far, and I really hope you read it.

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