Thanks to Netgalley and Charlesbridge for the advance copy of this book! Below is my honest review.
Charles, Tami. Like Vanessa. Charlesbridge, 2018. 284 pages. Hardcover $14.64, ISBN 978-1-58089-777-8
TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes
Genre: Historical fiction
Part of a series? No
Vanessa Martin watches the Miss America pageant each year with her Pop Pop and cousin TJ. It’s a ritual for them, and when they see Vanessa Williams crowned Miss America, Nessy finds herself wishing that she could be just like her. When a new music teacher announces that King Middle School will be hosting their own pageant, Nessy finds herself pressured (lovingly) into auditioning. Can Nessy use her beautiful voice and stellar academic record to win the crown, or will her missing mom and silent father hold her back from truly being herself and putting herself out there?
This is a wonderful book. It handles Nessy’s situation thoughtfully, and Nessy is such a compelling character to spend time with that readers will not be able to put this one down. Themes of friendship, puberty, and family secrets are familiar to middle grade books, but Charles’s novel is new and sweet. I am a little bit concerned with the details of Nessy’s weight loss and how her life improves as she slims down for the competition. She still refers to herself as big-boned, but there are repeated references to the inches of fabric that TJ needs to take in as she loses more and more weight. Other than that one detail, however, I really enjoyed this book and the voice it brings to middle grade books. The history is well-researched, and the beauty pageant rituals are described excellently. Highly recommend!
Grade Level: 5-8