Those kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Those kids from Fawn Creek is set in a fictitious small, rural town (Fawn Creek) in America. More specifically the story is set squarely in the lives of a seventh grade class of twelve students - in their school, their town and their home lives. 

New York times best-seller writer and Newbery prize winner, Filipina-American Erin Entrada Kelly knows how to portray the friendships, the dramas, the concerns and the lives of young people of Middle School age.  Her writing breathes realism in a contemporary Middle school environment. The classroom, lunch time and outside school activities of these young people mirror the small town social structure, values and attitudes of the parents and people of Fawn Creek. Kelly creates well-rounded characters; the reader views the unfolding social interaction within the year seven class from the perspective of four main characters.

In Fawn Creek, social structures are set in concrete. The young people have been in the same class for seven years: one character has been mercilessly bullied for ever, another character has always been a manipulative bully, controlling the friendship groups and setting the tone and behaviour code, another student is unhappy within his family as he is sensitive and different in a macho environment. These characters and their interactions are a familiar trope in middle school/young adult coming of age fiction but Kelly manages to keep them fresh so they speak to the concerns of contemporary Middle School readers. Many of the worries and problems of this age group are reflected in the characters that Kelly brings to like in Those kids from Fawn Creek. This is comforting for young readers as it is always good to be able to relate to characters and situations that are close to your own experience.

An extraordinary thing happens. A new girl arrives at school.  So as not to spoil the story, the result of this unprecendated arrival cannot be revealed in this review. Did it have an effect? The whole story hangs around the arrival of Orchid Mason in this town. Will friendships shift? Will wrongs be righted? Who is Orchid Mason?

Those kids from Fawn Creek is a moving story. There is deception, there is raw honesty, there is growth, acceptance and rejection. There is learning. There is a powerful ending. 

'Be nice. The world is a small town' is a quote from Austin Kleon and Erin Entrada Kelly chooses this quote to place in the front matter of her book along with a dedication 'To anyone with dreams bigger than their hometowns.' This is an interesting, wise, relatable and instructive book for young people who are navigating the Middle Years of schooling. It is easy to imagine that it could, like other Erin Estrada Kelly's books, be adapted to stage and/or Netflix. Teacher's notes are available.

Highly recommended.

Themes: Middle school friendships, Self acceptance, Life lessons.

Wendy Jeffrey