Chirp, by Kate Messner (2020)
First line: “Mia hadn’t realized how much she missed the mountains.”
After several years away, Mia and her family are moving back to her hometown to be closer to her grandmother as she recovers from a stroke and prepares to sell her business. At least, that’s what they thought the plan was. In reality, Gram has no intention of selling her cricket farm, not if she can help it. Despite the fact that Mia would prefer to spend her summer just helping Gram at the farm, Mia’s mother insists she join a couple camps to keep busy. Mia begrudgingly enrolls in Launch Camp, where participants work on developing their own inventions or business plans like her favorite show Deal with the Sharks, and Warrior Camp, where kids get to work out at a special training gym for her other favorite show, American Warrior Challenge. Warrior Camp happens to be in the same warehouse as Gram’s farm, so she’ll be close by to help out. It also shares warehouse space with a gymnastics gym, a fact that makes Mia very uncomfortable when she discovers its proximity.
Until an accident last year that severely broke her arm, Mia was an avid gymnast with Olympic dreams. But all that changed when she fell off the beam. She tries to push down all memory of that day and what happened, but it becomes harder and harder as the summer goes on. Fortunately, she does make friends with a girl who happens to be at both her camps, and they decide to use their time at Launch Camp to come up with ways to save Gram’s cricket farm. The problems seem stacked against her: even though she seems to be recovering well from her stroke, things keep happening at the farm that have Gram talking about sabotage. If one more thing goes wrong, she will be forced to sell… unless Mia and her friend can figure out who is behind it.
As their investigation picks up, Mia is forced to confront some secrets she’s kept buried for the last year. Secrets that are very much connected to why she finds it difficult to trust and why she cringes passing the gymnastics gym.
The story here is fine – the mystery is fairly predictable, and the friendships seem a bit too easy from my experience of middle school girls. But where this book shines is in Messner’s portrayal of Mia’s real and complicated internal life. Mia has a lot pent up inside her and these feelings feel incredibly authentic – at times heartbreaking:
“Even though she was older and taller now, she felt smaller somehow. As if her body was growing like it was supposed to, but inside, the rest of her was shrinking.”
Further, she has smart, strong, inspirational women around and behind her that give her the safety to express those feelings:
“‘Sometimes courage is quiet,’ Gram said. ‘You were brave to speak up today, Mia. But you were brave before that, too. Sometimes getting up in the morning and being you, no matter what’s happened to you and no matter what anybody says, is the bravest, most defiant thing a woman can do.'”
I think this book will touch many of its readers and will provide them with the courage to express things they’ve been burying. That’s what literature is meant to do for its readers, and this does it so well.
This book comes out next week, February 4th! Go order yours now!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books via NetGalley for the eGalley in exchange for an honest review.