I finished Lauren Myracle’s Luv Ya Bunches last night and as soon as I was done, I thought, “I’m pretty sure every single girl in my class would read this and love it and then pass it on to all of their friends.” That’s really something for a book to have such potential to appeal to a wide range of girl readers. I know grade 4 / 5 / 6 girls pretty well since this is the only age group I’ve taught, and I think that Myracle has nailed the voices of her characters, their particular obsessions and interests, and the social strife that can come with being a tween. (I confess there were moments when I was a shade bored by their social situations, a little bit “Come on, get over it already,” but then again I feel that way sometimes when I’m mediating issues in my classroom. What’s huge to them seems so minor to us. This book wasn’t written for me. The narrative stays very true to a ten-year old’s way of seeing and experiencing the world).
Rather than a plot intro by moi, here’s Lauren introducing her book:
This is the perfect lead-in book for the crowd that will later love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The multi-voiced narration and the social struggles of the main characters really reminded me of the Sisterhood, but more PG. The four-voice structure is a big part of what will help the book appeal to so many readers. First, this helps the main plot to advance quickly, and with a few different threads to keep things interesting. Also, each of the girls is quirky in her own way, with unique interests and family situations that will allow different types of girls to identify with them. I think that the characters came off a bit flat overall, without a lot of growth throughout the book, but it is the first in a series and I imagine they will become more rounded over time. There was a bit of a question mark for me around the fact that they are so obviously each of a different cultural background. I wondered if this wasn’t a bit too much, a bit forced, and in the end, it wasn’t accented much in the narrative. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Should more have been made of their different backgrounds? Will that aspect be explored more in future books? I’m eager to see. I liked the way Lauren suggests through this book that just as kids at that age can isolate and label their peers for the slightest, most minor of reasons, so too kids can make connections over small things. Small things can be the basis of friendship just as much as they can divide kids. This is an insightful observation about kid culture.
No doubt you read about the Scholastic controversy in which the publisher at first decided not to include this title in their book fairs because of concern over reaction to the fact that one of the girls has two moms. In SLJ’s feature on the issue, a Scholastic spokesperson was quoted as saying, “Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs.” Crazyness. Then the publisher changed their tune, sort of.
Luv ya Bunches is a peppy, funny, breezy book that will just shoot off the shelves and make tweens feel understood. It is published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams.