Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl is the story of twelve-year-old Ariana “Cricket” Overland’s quest to find the mysterious Bird Room and convince her mama to come home for good. Set in a Mississippi ghost town, this book is part survival story, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story.
Some of the things I liked best about this book are:
- The beginning.
“Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. The hard part was getting up the guts to go.”
- Cricket. Her story is in many ways a sad one. Her father has died, her mentally ill mother has left, and her aunt wants to ship her off to live with a great-aunt. But Cricket stays determined and hopeful.
When she was younger, her mother told her, “We’re meanderers, Cricket. We pay attention.” Those qualities make her a good artist, a good detective, and a good narrator.
- The Bird Room. I like the idea of a secret room whose four walls are painted with a garden in spring, summer, winter, and fall. And I was excited to learn from the author’s note that it was inspired by the work of a real artist, Walter Inglis Anderson.
Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is July 10.