Meant to Be by Jo Knowles. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536210323
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Ivy and her family have recently moved into an apartment in Applewood Heights. Her parents and older sister, Rachel, are not very happy in their new home, having left behind their old farmhouse (due to foreclosure) and Rachel’s best friend Micah. Ivy loves the new place, especially because she has two new friends just an elevator ride away. Lucas and Alice share Ivy’s love of cooking, and the trio spends each Saturday watching Bake It Till You Make It and then trying to recreate the baking challenge posed in the episode. Ivy is a worrier; she worries about how to convince her family that the apartment is right for them, and about how to maintain her new friendships. She frequently says the wrong thing even when she means well, and when she inadvertently upsets Alice with a poor choice of words, she worries that she has ruined everything. Wise advice from Rachel and the building’s maintenance person Donnalyn help her see the error of her ways, but it’s up to Ivy to figure out how to fix things.
Strong character development is a major asset in this companion novel to the author’s 2019 Where the Heart Is, which focused on Rachel and the events leading to the family’s move to the apartment building. Readers will find it easy to connect with Ivy’s anxieties and her struggle to do the right thing, but Knowles deftly provides insight into the challenges the other characters are facing as well and weaves them all together in a believable, enjoyable story. Serious adult issues such as Alice’s mother’s drug abuse and Ivy’s parents’ financial woes are dealt with empathetically but without sugarcoating. The book concludes rather hopefully, and leaves us to speculate on the future for Ivy and her friends. Language arts teachers will appreciate the conversations Ivy has with Rachel and Donnalyn about sayings, and how people shouldn’t rely on catchphrases and buzzwords to decide how to act (the book’s title derives from the old adage about “If you love something, set it free…”). The characters default as White although this is not explicitly stated.
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary and middle school readers who enjoy books by authors like Barbara O’Connor or Elly Swartz, who create rich communities full of interesting characters, and especially those who have read Where the Heart Is. (It is not necessary to have read that first, but reading Meant to Be will likely send readers searching for it!)
Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: May 23, 2022