I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately so I’m happy to start off the week with a book that has got me excited about reading again.
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
I don’t usually read middle grade books, I’m not sure if that is always a conscious decision or if at one time I’ve thought that maybe I would find them too young for me and then just never thought to explore them. So I was pleasantly surprised when In The Role Of Brie Hutchens… was brought to my attention and from the start it sounded like a book I would enjoy reading.
I actually cannot recommend this book enough and I wish I had the words to do it justice but it is just magical. I think what speaks to me the most about this book is how relatable it is, it feels like there is so much that I can share about Brie’s experience of admitting to herself who she is and discovering what that means to her and her family.
Having to own up to your emotions is something that I have been doing a lot of lately and actually having a character doing the same, even if it is for different reasons, and being imperfect, getting it wrong, then figuring it out all over again and still trying to do better, it just fosters an amazing sense of hope. It reminded me that it’s ok to believe in yourself but that it’s also ok to make mistakes and that you don’t have to have everything figured out .
I think it is so important to have books that represent different experiences because it can help readers feel less alone if they find a character that is going through something similar to them and this book really covers quite a few bases but without it being forced. It looks at how Brie fits in with her faith as she discovers her feelings for another girl, how she manages her family’s expectations of her and of her future, but most importantly it looks at managing changing family dynamics.
Getting to explore the relationship between Brie and her mum was definitely a highlight of this book, I think the author captured that tense period of knowing that something is going to irrevocably change a relationship superbly. I think most importantly it gives hope to younger people who are worried about admitting who they really are to their family, it shows how much of a struggle it can be on both sides but at the end of the day shows what real love and support looks like.
Another thing I really admire about this book is how fun it was to read, there are some really important topics in this book but it is also lighthearted and entertaining, for me it struck the perfect balance. It is an easy book to read and in the grand scheme of things the storyline is simple but it really hits hard on the emotional level and I just loved it.
Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.