Sixth grade at Seaward Pines Academy means dealing with homeroom, lockers, switching classes and trying out for sports. For Merci Suárez, the start of the sixth grade means even bigger changes—not only school dynamics but friendship, boys, family and an eye that strays to the side, especially when Merci’s stressed. Because her father is a paint contractor (and not a podiatrist like popular girl Edna’s dad is), Merci attends the prestigious Florida private school on a scholarship. This year, to assist with tuition costs, the tween must serve as a Sunshine Buddy to a new student named Michael. And instead of spending time saving up for a new bike and showing off her soccer skills on the school team, she’s forced to act as the afternoon nanny for her younger twin nephews after the usual babysitter, their grandfather Lolo, becomes increasingly forgetful.
Author Meg Medina balances Merci’s tears and frustrations with middle school cliques—and the harsh reality of Lolo’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis—by highlighting the unwavering support of Merci’s Latinx family, who shares meals, stories and love in their row of three little pink houses. Merci draws on this support when an accidental mishap with Edna threatens to land her in trouble, and the spunky, resilient tween develops a deeper understanding of both herself and the differences between popularity and friendship. Although the changes in her life are uncertain, Merci also discovers that change can bring new opportunities. Medina expertly captures what it feels like to be in sixth grade, and readers will cheer on Merci as she rides through her adventure.