Goodreads: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
Series: companion book to The Exact Location of Home
Gianna Zales is looking forward to run in sectionals–if she can pass science class. Unfortunately, she forgot all about her leaf project. If she can’t collect enough leaves in time, her arch nemesis will run in her place. But how on earth is Gianna supposed to focus on school when she’s worried about her Nonna’s memory, she’s wondering if her best friend Zig might ever be something more, and her dad keeps embarrassing her by driving her around in the family hearse?
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. is the type of book that reminds me why I love middle-grade so much. Kate Messner provides an empathetic portrayal of one middle schooler’s attempts to keep it all together as she battles embarrassment from her family, new feelings for her best friend, a nemesis who wants her spot on the track team, a failing science grade, and a grandmother who might be experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s. Some people might think Gianna’s life not so hard after all. But the young at heart remember that everything takes on great significance in middle school.
Gianna and her friends and family are a sympathetic cast of characters, who make you want to love them from the start. From Gianna’s no-nonsense mother to her perfectly understanding grandmother to her tech-savvy friend Zig, the book is full of people who seem so real they might walk off the page. They may be flawed, but they are still lovable. Gianna’s wish to keep them all together, safe and happy, is a wish readers will share. It’s that bond that readers form with the characters that makes the book so special.
There are not many authors who can capture my heart, but Messner’s work is consistently empathetic as she tackles issues like Alzheimer’s, homelessness, and the effects of the heroin epidemic. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. is another reminder of why all Messner’s books are now on my must-read list.