Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone cover
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller

By Tae Keller
Random House, 2022
288 pages

Ages 9-12

Jennifer Chan (Chinese American) is obsessed with extraterrestrial life, a fascination she shared with her late dad. Biracial (Korean/white) Mallory Moss, always worried about fitting in, may not believe in aliens from other worlds but admires her new neighbor Jennifer’s ability to be herself even as she distances herself from Jennifer once the school year begins. Mallory knows Jennifer won’t have an easy time in their middle school if she shares her belief in alien life with others. This book opens well into the school year, when Jennifer has run away. Mallory feels sick as well as scared, sure of the reason why: Mallory’s best friend, Reagan, began the year treating Jennifer in ways that she claims were “nice,” but were cruel in both intent and reality; this evolved into a concerted effort to belittle Jennifer. Anxious Mallory not only didn’t say “stop,” but participated. The story moves back and forth between the past, revealing more about these and other characters and their relationships, and the present, with Mallory determined to find Jennifer and involving her former best friend, Ingrid, in helping her unravel the mystery. This novel illuminates feelings, behavior, and dynamics among its middle-school-age characters with sharp and incisive honesty, offering nuanced glimpses of complicated lives and relationships. But those complications never become tropes or excuses for inexcusable cruelty as it probes anxiety, jealousy, pain, grief, indifference, and the beginnings of forgiveness. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center