As you know if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know I’m a fan of middle grade books and have been reading more of them lately. So I was really excited when Algonquin Young Readers contacted me to ask if I wanted to participate with a review for the blog tour for In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby. So keep on reading to find out what I thought of this book that releases today!
A big thanks to Algonquin Young Readers and the author for providing me with an ARC on Netgalley to read and review.
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.
Brie is an eighth grader in her last year of middle school at a Catholic school. When her mother catches her looking at some pictures of her favorite soap opera actress, Brie tells her mother a lie. She’ll be crowning Mary. This is a big thing for her mother and Brie must now find a way to make it happen.
I’m a big fan of books that take place at school and In the Role of Brie Hutchens had a good balance between home and school. I was never a student at a religious school, so I can’t relate. I imagine that it can be difficult for students who are struggling with their identity in many ways. It has to be hard trying to figure that out when at a school that tells you you should think a certain way.
In the Role of Brie Hutchens is an important book. I think it’s great that our main character goes to a religious school, because I’m sure there are many students in the same position as Brie these days. Being a teenager isn’t easy. You have a lot to figure out, school, friends, family and your sexuality in some cases. That can be a really scary time and Nicole Melleby really hit me in all the feels.
Brie is a character that I had to get used to at first, but she ended up with a special place in my heart. All she wants is her mother to see her and be proud of her, especially after her mother catches her looking at the pictures. Brie is in many ways a typical teenager: she likes hanging out with her friends, school isn’t always fun and crushes start happening, just not the way she was expecting. Brie grows so much as a character. She lets herself feel, really works for what she wants and eventually is in a place that she can open up to her parents. All while she’s trying to figure out where she fits in this world.
Brie’s family is a complicated situation. I think it shows us the stresses that parents can have when they lose their job and money gets tight. This definitely influences the home life and the author definitely adds that element to the story. If I’m honest I had a hard time with her mother a lot in this story. I just wanted her to sit down with Brie, talk to her and give her a hug. You could really feel that Brie just wanted to be accepted. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for every teenager. Brie’s Dad was a character I ended up loving. He wants his family to have everything, even if it ends up being hard on him. The relationship between him and Brie was an interesting one and I loved seeing it grow.
On top of the family, we have Brie’s friends and crush. They made me laugh and I am such a big fan of Parker for being a really good friend. Besides the characters, I loved the connection to the soap operas Brie loves. The added scenes before the start of every chapter was such a nice touch and I loved how it related to something Brie was experiencing in that chapter. It’s nice when you can find something to relate to! Some story lines were left open, but that didn’t really bother me.
In the Role of Brie Hutchens is an amazing books with a lot of messages. I love how it talks about family, friendship, sexuality, finding out what you want, fighting for your dreams and maybe even accepting yourself. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this author to see what she does next.
About the Author
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.
Praise for In the Role of Brie Hutchens
“A nuanced exploration of how to reconcile faith and identity. Melleby’s clear, honest voice expertly captures the frustration, awkwardness, and fear of being vulnerable—as well as the potential rewards…This funny, tender, and heart-wrenching story will have readers calling for an encore.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Melleby (Hurricane Season) paints Brie as a recognizable teen: authentic in her self-centeredness and sympathetic in her attempts to embrace her identity. Brie’s anxiety over her faith, as well as how to come out to her loved ones, is wrenching and genuine in this accomplished, leisurely paced read.”
—Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
“The story honestly conveys Brie’s confusion about her sexuality, while at the same time, moves plotlines to the next level by also delving into the way the family’s Catholicism affects events. Younger teens questioning their sexuality—or faith—will find much to ponder here.”
“Chapter openings describing events from soap operas—the one strong interest she shares with her mom—underscore how dramatic the events feel to Brie, as well as the fact that, though she’s realized something new about herself, she’s still the same person.”
—The Horn Book
“Her struggles and those of her family seem authentic, their interactions realistic, and Brie’s desire to be really seen and loved for who she is will ring true with many, middle school readers.”
—School Library Journal
I really enjoyed In the Role of Brie Hutchens and think it’s a really good book for this age group. Being a teenager isn’t always easy and I think this books shows that really well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this author to see what she writes next!