Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner

Review: middle grade, contemporary, science, family


Gianna Zales is a seventh-grade cross-country star, but her running career and glory is jeopardized by the upcoming science project deadline. Gianna must collect and identify 25 leaves, but that’s a hard thing to do when your grandmother’s memory is failing, the mean girls at school are out to get you, your father drives you to school in a hearse, and you’ve never been one for deadlines. Still, perhaps with the help of some fantastic people in her life, Gianna will be able to learn from all her hardships, while still completing her leaf project.


Kate Messner is a shining voice in middle-grade fiction. Her characters will rank right up there with Sharon Creech’s for best-friend potential.

Messner effortlessly introduces us to the totally normal yet exceptionally charming Zales family within just a few pages. Characterization leaps off the page: Gianna’s mother, father, little brother, and grandmother all sound like they could be your next-door neighbors, the smoothness with which their characters are developed an unfortunately rare accomplishment in fiction. There are hardly any stereotypes, and those that are a bit flat (like Gianna’s mean classmates) are completely excusable and perfect in their two-dimensionality.

The story is a beautiful weave of school troubles, family troubles, dealing with memory loss, and exploring new romantic feelings for your close friend. That’s a lot to pack into a book, but it never feels overwhelming in THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. Messner proves that it’s not about the number of issues you are or aren’t allowed to include in a book, but rather the way the author integrates the problems. And she does it beautifully.

Kate Messner is undoubtedly one of my favorite middle-grade authors. Her prose is effortless and her characters rich, and readers of all ages will be able to fall in love with the characters and find a bit of themselves in the book. THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z transcends its genre boundaries and becomes a classic tale of growing up that will reach anyone’s heart.

Similar Authors
Sharon Creech

Cover discussion: Oh how I love how original, colorful, and whimsical these covers are. They seem to have lightened the image between the hardcover and paperback; not a big deal!

Walker Books / Sept. 14, 2010 / Paperback (reprint) / 224pp. / $6.99

Copy...uh, I don't remember how I got the copy I reviewed in 2009, but I own a copy now!

1 comment:

  1. I tend to lean toward more YA than MG, but this sounds absolutely fantastic. It reminds me of my favorites from middle school. Definitely going to check out Gianna Z and the rest of Kate Messner's work.


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