Published on October 01, 2023
Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Reviewed by Elizabeth DeVincenzo
Mallory, a seventh grader has recently become friends with popular girls Reagan and Tess. She has learned the only way to survive middle school is to fit in. Then she meets Jennifer Chan, her new neighbor. Jennifer doesn’t care about fitting in. She is very interested in aliens and UFOs and keeps journals on her “findings”. Mallory and Jennifer become friends outside of school, but once at school, Mallory ignores her. Jennifer is considered weird by the popular kids at school is bullied and Mallory does nothing to stop it. When Reagan, Tess, and Mallory take their bullying too far, Jennifer disappears. Did she run away or was she abducted by aliens? Searching for clues in Jennifer’s journals, Mallory and her friends Ingrid and Kath (her studious friends who she abandoned once she became popular) try to find out what happened to Jennifer. This novel told from Mallory’s point of view has chapters alternating between the events leading up to Jennifer’s disappearance and the present search for Jennifer. Also interspersed throughout the novel are entries from Jennifer’s journal. As she and her friends search for Jennifer, Mallory becomes more self-aware and realizes how hurtful her actions were towards Jennifer and her former friends, Ingrid and Kath. This character-driven mystery would also appeal to readers who like middle-school realistic fiction. This insightful work is an excellent choice for a middle-grade book club leading to a discussion about bullying. Author, Tae Keller (winner of the 2021 Newbery Award for When You Trap a Tiger) has included an author’s note sharing her personal experiences as someone who was bullied in middle-school. Recommended for fans of Judy Blume, especially Blubber a novel about bullying, which is also told from the perspective of a bystander.
Target audience: Ages 8-12