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Just Like That

By: Gary D Schmidt

In this poignant, perceptive, witty novel, Gary D. Schmidt brings authenticity and emotion to multiple plot strands, weaving in themes of grief, loss, redemption, achievement, and love. Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene's Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school's traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene's with a pillowcase full of money lifted from the leader of a criminal gang, fearing the gang's relentless, destructive pursuit. Both young people gradually dispel their loneliness, finding a way to be hopeful and also finding each other.

ISBN: 9780544084773

JLG Release: Mar 2021


Sensitive Areas: Violence: Death , Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War , Language: Mild Language , Crime: Gang/Organized Crime , Medical: Animal Anatomy/Reproduction
Topics: Boarding schools , Preparatory schools , Gangs , Theft , Grief , Death , Loneliness , Teenagers , Maine , Conduct of life , Friendship , First loves , Homelessness , Social classes , Classism , Vietnam War (1961–1975) , 1960s US history

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

School Library Journal

Schmidt’s extended family of memorable characters loses one but gains a few more in this masterful companion to The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. It’s summer 1968, immediately after the end of Wednesday Wars, and Meryl Lee Kowalski (described as having auburn hair and freckles) is reeling from the shocking accidental Schmidt’s extended family of memorable characters loses one but gains a few more in this masterful companion to The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. It’s summer 1968, immediately after the end of Wednesday Wars, and Meryl Lee Kowalski (described as having auburn hair and freckles) is reeling from the shocking accidental death of Holling Hoodhood, the boy she’s loved since the third grade. Her parents send her to the prestigious St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls in Harpswell, ME, to help her come to terms with the loss. Also arriving in Harpswell is Matt Coffin, a homeless white 13-year-old whose harrowing past keeps him on the run, with the dream of safety and happiness always out of reach. Matt and Meryl Lee’s lives intertwine with the help of Dr. Nora MacKnockater, headmistress of St. Elene’s. With wisdom and dry humor, Dr. MacKnockater patiently helps both teens recognize their value and innate strength. The novel shares the same setting as Lizzie Bright—Maine’s rugged seacoast—as well as several deftly placed supporting characters fans of Lizzie will appreciate. As Meryl Lee and Matt face grave adult issues, Schmidt contrasts the worst of humanity with the affirmation that love and hope can make the world a beautiful place. His language is honest and direct without trivializing the seriousness of a character’s experience. Meryl Lee realizes “life doesn’t stop even when horrible things happen.” The novel closes with the tantalizing hint that the next family story may come from Matt’s missing past. ­VERDICT Schmidt effortlessly weaves seemingly unrelated plot threads into a beautiful tapestry of heartbreak, courage, and humor. An essential purchase for all middle grade collections.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY

Horn Book

Losses suffered by two young people set in motion threads of fate that will ultimately tie them together. In June 1968, in Hicksville, Long Island, Meryl Lee Kowalski’s closest friend, Holling (protagonist of The Wednesday Wars, rev. 7/07), is killed in a car crash, and her parents send her away for a fresh start at St. Elene’s Preparatory Acad Losses suffered by two young people set in motion threads of fate that will ultimately tie them together. In June 1968, in Hicksville, Long Island, Meryl Lee Kowalski’s closest friend, Holling (protagonist of The Wednesday Wars, rev. 7/07), is killed in a car crash, and her parents send her away for a fresh start at St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls on the coast of Maine. In a parallel narrative, Matt Coffin has fled New York City with a pillowcase full of money stolen from Leonidas Shug, an evil, Fagin-like leader of a gang of street criminals who killed Matt’s friend. After the loss of her friend, Meryl Lee feels that “everything in the world became a Blank,” a dark hole that threatens to suck her in. In the same town, Matt has holed up in a lobsterman’s shack, but he realizes that he cannot escape his past, as Shug is in pursuit, leaving a trail of arson and mayhem in his wake. Meryl Lee’s and Matt’s stories eventually converge through the actions of St. Elene’s wise and compassionate headmistress, who offers them both the refuge they seek. Schmidt nimbly weaves a story of good and evil, loss and gain, home and heart. He writes like a modern-day Dickens; at one point, Meryl Lee says that “there are times when words can’t do what you want them to do,” but Schmidt can, and this is a masterwork of old-fashioned storytelling. DEAN SCHNEIDER

Book Details

ISBN

9780544084773

First Release

March 2021

Genre

Fiction

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

8 3/10" x 5 1/2"

Page Count

400

Accelerated Reader

Level 5.9; Points: 15;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Clarion

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Violence: Death , Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War , Language: Mild Language , Crime: Gang/Organized Crime , Medical: Animal Anatomy/Reproduction

Topics

Boarding schools, Preparatory schools, Gangs, Theft, Grief, Death, Loneliness, Teenagers, Maine, Conduct of life, Friendship, First loves, Homelessness, Social classes, Classism, Vietnam War (1961–1975), 1960s US history,

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