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Review: Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

Lilah Bloom can hear dead people … and boy, are they annoying!

After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy a refreshingly funny and likeable middle grade novel that is sure to be a hit with readers. The story follows Lilah Bloom, a twelve-year-old girl who is attending her mother’s wedding to a new step-father. It’s a pretty relaxed affair, and Lilah is happy for her mother – that is, until Lilah is struck by lightning on her way to retrieve her bridesmaid bouquet. From there, her life with never be the same, as she is hearing the voices of the dead – usually with hilarious results.

Ms Levy has a knack for writing a completely believable twelve-year-old. Lilah talks and acts like an almost-teen girl, and her conversations could have been transcribed from outside of my students’ lockers. There’s also a lot of humour in this book. I’ll confess that I read it on the subway, and I managed to garner more than a few looks for my laughter (FYI – the scene where Lilah goes bra-shopping with the voices of her Bubby Dora and Prissy Lafontaine? Absolutely hysterical!).

Lilah’s relationship with her Bubby is a loving one, and it is obvious that, even as a ghostly presence, her Bubby is a strong role model and caregiver for her granddaughter. The ghosts aren’t there to be the focus of the book; instead, each encounter allows Lilah to either help someone in need, or to become more aware of her own abilities. Having said that, this isn’t a ‘preachy’ book by any stretch and Lilah learns and grows naturally, making mistakes like any other girl her age.

What helps this book to stand apart from other middle grade novels is its ability to combine both supernatural elements with realistic fiction with a healthy dose of humour along the way. Lilah is a completely relatable character – smart, but still struggling in Math, a good friend, and shy around boys but yearning for Andrew Finkel to notice her. As well, she deals with very normal situations in her life – her first crush, school issues, friendships, encouraging her dad to move on and begin dating, and navigating the social structure of middle school. Yes, she does so with the guidance of ghostly advisors, but her character handles that unusual aspect with great aplomb and in a completely normal fashion.

In the end, it’s this focus on the realities of life at a twelve-year-old and the ever-present humour that makes this such an enjoyable book. It brings to mind the best of my own middle school reads, and I would venture to say that this book ranks right up there with my favourite Judy Blume and Paula Danzinger books. If you haven’t picked up a copy for your middle school reader, it will make a great summer read!

My copy was graciously provided by the author for an honest review (thanks, Joanne!) along with some pretty amazing bookmarks (that I would show you but… I handed them all out!). This book is also available via IndigoAmazon and through your local indie bookseller here or here


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8 Responses »

  1. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while! I’m hoping that I can read it in September because I want to read some Children’s Books since it’s ‘Back to school’ month. Have you read the Adam Canfield series by Michael Winerip? I would definitely recommend that as a good middle school grade read. It’s fantastic and a fun read!


  2. What a fabulous review of this book! I really loved the humour and voice of Lilah as well. She was just so relateable and likeable. And I am totally with you on the Judy Bloom comparison!



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