Goodreads: Just Jaime
Series: #3 in Libenson’s Middle School series
Publication Date: May 2019
Jaime never imagined that she would spend the last day of seventh grade watching her friendships fall apart. Her BFF since forever, Maya, no longer seems to like her, now that their new friend Celia is pulling the strings. And, because Jaime is known as a mean Gossip Girl herself, she’s not sure she can even make new friends. This is about to be the worst summer ever.
Just Jaime by Terri Libenson puts a twist on the standard middle school friendship story by featuring, not an overlooked or bullied or introverted protagonist, but rather a Gossip Girl, a girl responsible for the bullying. Jaime and Maya have been best friends since they were little, but now that Celia has joined their group, Celia and the others keep making fun of Jaime. They say it is all joke, but Jaime is not sure. Jaime’s never had to worry about eating alone before or making new friends. But, suddenly, she has to confront the fact that her old friends do not like her and hardly anyone else does, either. Just Jaime does a marvelous job of making a mean girl human and sympathetic, without excusing her actions.
The mean girls in stories always fascinate me because I have never understood how being mean makes a person popular. It cannot be that they are pretty or rich or charismatic–surely other people in the school are also those things, but nice. So it is interesting to see a story told from the perspective of a mean girl, one does not see herself as particularly mean, but rather as a high-spirited individual who just loves to talk. About other people. Only when she begins to be bullied herself (by her own ostensible friends) does she begin to see how others might feel hurt.
Just Jaime is a heartwarming story about a girl learning that it is okay to be herself, even if that means she has to find new friends. Along the way, she realizes that new friendships must be formed by asking forgiveness and choosing to be kind. She even discovers that there are things to talk about that do not include gossip about her classmates. Some may struggle with seeing the humanity in a former mean girl. But that is what makes Just Jaime so marvelous. It is a reminder that even the mean people are sometimes just looking for a place where they belong.