The middler by Kirsty Applebaum

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Nosy Crow books, 2019. ISBN: 9781788003452.
(Age: 12-14) Recommended. Themes: Dystopian fiction, Future society, Friendship, Loyalty, Siblings, Betrayal. Maggie is looking for a way to make herself noticed. She is a middle child, not a heroic eldest, who will help to fight in the silent war to help her society. When you turn 14 you go to camp and then to fight, it is a tradition that no-one questions. But Maggie is not an eldest and laments the fact that she is often forgotten even by her own family, so finding and catching a Wanderer seems the best and most noble thing she can manage to change that. Maggie and all the other townsfolk are indoctrinated during their schooling to believe that the boundary of the town is there to keep them safe from the outside world and the wanderers - dirty, deceitful, dangerous people that don't have a town to call home. So why does the one that Maggie has met seem so nice and friendly? Una and her father are certainly dirty but are they dangerous? She has connected with them and she feels compelled to help. Una's father is badly injured, her mother is dead, so Maggie gets the medicine they need and gives them food. She tells herself that she will turn them in but when this happens facts are revealed that make her question everything she has ever been told about her society.
Maggie narrates the story, telling us about her family in such detail that we get to know them well: her eldest brother Jed, about to leave for Camp; her youngest brother Trig, who is special and needs extra care; her hard-working mother and father; a family living in the 20th century but at a time when the war has meant life is a struggle and they don't always have the things they need to live an easy life.
This book allows us to see that everyone has a different point of view and putting yourself in another's shoes often reveals the truth about life instead of the beliefs and prejudices that surround us. The story could link with discussions about refugees and how their lives are affected by the way society views their situation and life choices.
Gabrielle Anderson