Daisy, Bold & Beautiful by Ellie Collins

★★★★  Daisy Jane “D.J.” Daniels just moved to a new town with her dad. On top of the struggle of starting at a new school and trying to make friends, D.J. is dealing with the loss of her mother, who died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. After D.J. meets May, Payton, and Lexi at school, she is quickly welcomed into their circle of friends. Still, these girls are completely obsessed with video games and D.J. couldn’t care less. She’s not sure if they’ll continue to talk to her when she tells them she’d rather be gardening than gaming. Add into the mix the fact that D.J. has been dreaming about the Greek goddess Persephone for the last few nights and you have one crazy coming-of-age story!

Collins has written a moving, memorable middle-grade novel about the “horrors” facing the new kid at school. D.J.’s very real fears of fitting in and finding friendship make her an immensely relatable character. Her nighttime conversations with Persephone are a wonderful touch of surrealism that allow D.J. to tackle the larger issues looming in her subconscious, like the loss of her mother, the desire to form meaningful relationships, and the advent of a budding romantic life. One does wish, though, that there was a bit more meat to the plot. The central conflict here is that D.J. fears she’ll lose her friends if she tells them the truth. Another side plot has D.J. worried to ask her school crush to the Spring Fling. Both conflicts are easily resolved, but readers might enjoy seeing D.J. have to work a little harder to achieve her goals. In the end, Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is a fresh-faced, no-frills tale about finding friendship, establishing your inner voice, and standing up for yourself.

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