In Jo Watson Hackl’s Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, young Cricket is motivated—with magical thinking and pure determination—to make things right with her mother, who left the family after Cricket’s grandmother died. In a moment of courage, Cricket takes advantage of being left behind in a supermarket and runs away from her aunt and bratty cousins. With a real cricket as a traveling companion, Cricket takes off for the woods to hole up for a little over a week, hoping and waiting for her mother’s reappearance on the anniversary of her grandmother’s death.
Equipped with supplies from the grocery store and her father’s survival manual, Cricket has some successes and major pitfalls in her outdoor adventure. She believes that if she can find the special “bird room” that her mother so often described, everything can be put right. While Cricket discovers clues that lead her closer to the bird room, more is revealed about Cricket and her mother’s relationship. Readers slowly realize Cricket’s mother has mental health issues, which form the cornerstone of this touching middle grade novel.
Hackl’s cheerful protagonist confronts difficult situations and issues with resolve and aplomb during her journey toward maturity.