Genre: Realistic Fiction, Diverse Reads, Middle Grade, Being Yourself
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ella has been friend with Z forever. He was there for her when she needed it the most and pulled her out of her darkness. Even though being friends with Z is difficult, especially as he sinks more and more into his own dark world, Ella can't leave him behind. So she endures. They are a pair--a pair who get made fun of on a regular basis. Ella gets made fun of because she is the only black girl at her school and her face is covered with patches of different colors. Z is made of fun because he acts weird--very weird. When a new boy arrives at school, Ella is ecstatic because he too is black. She's finally going to have someone who is like her! Only now it seems like she has to make choice between Z, the friend who was always there for her and desperately needs her now, or Bailey, the friend who likes, really likes her.
There were parts of Camo Girl that were difficult to read because my heart was just breaking. It broke so much for Ella. She is a lucky girl. Although her father recently died from cancer, she lives with a grandmother who encourages her to stand up and be the strong girl she sees, and a mother who loves her so very much. She has a friend in Z like none other--but she knows that something isn't right with him now. And Ella's other friend has abandoned her because Z is too weird and all the other kids know it too, but she's trying so hard to help him, to keep things normal for him and for her. Then, when she does try to do something without Z, it breaks both of them because Ella doesn't know how to explain it to him so he will understand--if he can understand.
Through all of this, Ella is trying so hard to accept who she is, but she can't. She does her best to go through her day without looking the mirror. She doesn't want to see herself and be reminded of the way she looks. Every day she is reminded by the bullies in her school who call her "Camo Girl" and trip her while she walks by. Every day she remembers what Z did for her on the day her father died and she cannot abandon him--not like everyone else has.
This book is about acceptance, not so much acceptance of others, although that is here. It's about accepting oneself and accepting the truth. It takes a lot of Ella to accept the truth about Z and take the steps needed to help him--but will it be too late?
I definitely recommend Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon. It's in my classroom library and has already flown off the shelf! Definitely a great read for middle schoolers as they try to find themselves in this world and accept who they are. It's a clean read that deals with real life issues kids face in a realistic and authentic way.