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Mackenzie Blue

Review

Mackenzie Blue

First words, first steps, first lost tooth. These and many other developmental milestones are so important to parents. But these are not the moments children remember. Instead, their perspective of childhood and adolescence is usually marked by first sleepovers, first days of school, first cars and first kisses. 

Mackenzie Blue Carmichael is starting the seventh grade at her private school, moving from the lower school to the upper one. While many of her friends, classmates (and antagonists) are moving up along with her, best friend Ally is far away having moved to Paris with her family. Mackenzie (aka Zee) feels that this very important milestone of a day --- the first day of the school year --- will set the tone for the entire year. She is worried that Ally isn’t there but excited about all the possibilities waiting for her.

In Tina Wells’s debut novel, MACKENZIE BLUE, the first day of school does set the tone for Zee’s year. New friends, old adversaries, new teachers and old crushes all have to be faced, and still Zee learns she must remain true to herself. Without Ally, Zee’s closest friend is Jasper, a sensitive English boy new to the school. And on the first day she meets Chloe, who has just moved to the area as well and shares Zee’s love of music and funky crafts. She needs their friendship right away as she faces a series of social obstacles and personal trials.

On the first day of school Zee’s diary is lost. A faithful diarist, she is devastated, but insult is added to injury when it turns out that someone has the diary and is using it against her. A series of messages on school blackboards and texted to her prove that someone is out to hurt her. Still, she refuses to let the diary thief thwart her biggest goal of the year: to successfully audition for “Teen Sing,” the competitive television show. Encouraged by a compelling and talented new teacher, her friends, and even her older brother, Zee takes the pain and frustration of knowing her diary is out there and turns it into a creative and emotional artistic expression.  

For Zee, this is a time of important social and emotional milestones. She is forming new, more grown-up friendships, learning to trust her instincts and talents, and trying new and courageous things. She handles the challenges with a quirky grace and strong spirit. Wells’s heroine is spunky and creative, an open-hearted everygirl with a love of words, art and music. Young readers will find much to inspire them in her story.

Zee’s world, however, is not typical to American children. She attends a private academy, has all the latest electronic gadgets, and her parents have glamorous jobs. She is a talented singer and promising songwriter and is encouraged to pursue those artistic dreams. Discerning readers will detect a level of fantasy at play, but others may be distracted by the idealized version of an affluent lifestyle. 

Socioeconomic status aside, Zee’s story, the first in a series, manages to be mostly without pretension, mainly because Zee herself is so likable and vulnerable as she navigates the rough waters of early adolescence. The details of her life may be specific, but the themes of the milestones in this story --- friendship, trust and self-expression --- are universal.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 5, 2009

Mackenzie Blue
by Tina Wells

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2009
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061583081
  • ISBN-13: 9780061583087