THE QUEEN BEE AND ME, by Gillian McDunn , Bloomsbury Children’s Books, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Middle school dynamics take center stage in Gillian McDunn’s The Queen Bee and Me.
Meg is used to being the trusty sidekick — the easygoing girl who doesn’t make waves. Being Beatrix’s friend has required her to make a few concessions, but having a best friend is worth it.
Until they enter middle school.
Beatrix assumes they’ll both be in dance together, but Meg has been invited to participate in a special science elective instead. When Meg is paired with Hazel, a new girl with a style all her own, Beatrix makes it clear the Meg is hers. Meg is surprised, and ashamed, of Beatrix’s behavior toward Hazel. As Meg starts standing up to her best friend, she realizes she may have to change the status quo in order to find her own voice.
My daughter just turned 6, and I’m already not looking forward to her teenage years. Tween and teen girls can be awful, but books like The Queen Bee and Me give me hope that with even one good friend, we can all survive it.
At the heart of The Queen Bee and Me are three girls who are trying to figure out where they stand in the world.
Meg is a protagonist you want to succeed. In the beginning, Meg is a pleaser. She wants everyone to be happy. As she realizes that’s impossible, her world opens up. Her journey is emotional and heartfelt, and it’s a joy to see her blossom.
Initially, I really disliked Beatrix. She comes across as stuck-up and bossy. It would have been easy for author Gillian McDunn to play to stereotypes and leave things there, but she doesn’t. She addresses the hidden fears and dreams hiding beneath the surface.
Hazel appears to have all the confidence in the world. From the way she dresses to her bold ideas, you’d think she has it all together. As her insecurities come to light, she becomes a much more complex character.
One of my favorite elements in The Queen Bee and Me was Meg’s strained relationship with her mother. As a parent, it helped open my eyes to the ever-shifting parent/child dynamic. And I’m sure it will resonate with the intended audience as they compare it to their own parental interactions.
The Queen Bee and Me is an honest book that is on point socially and emotionally. McDunn’s writing is clear and accessible and instantly inviting. If you are or have a tween/teen girl, this book should definitely be on your shelf.
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