February 14, 2017

Crushing It

by Joanne Levy
240 pp.
Ages 9-13
January 2017
Reviewed from advance reading copy

In a middle-grade twist on the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac’s clandestine wooing of the fair Roxanne for the tongue-tied Christian, Joanne Levy, author of the very funny Small Medium at Large (Bloomsbury, 2012), again confirms that first loves aren’t always those of the innocent simplicity suggested.
My stomach had started doing flip-flops because he was...different.  I couldn't figure out exactly what it was, but something inside me told me things were weird.  Not that he was acting differently; just he made me nervous.  Like I wanted to be around him and not be around him at the same time. (pg. 8-9)
Twelve-year-old Kat and her next door neighbour and friend Tyler have a lot in common, like playing Zombie Slashers, watching anime movies, reading fantasy books, and volunteering at a local animal shelter.  But Tyler, who’d previously attended private school, is now on everyone’s radar in Grade 7, including that of Kat’s best friend and cousin Olivia.  Not seeing herself as anything but a warthog, because of her braces, glasses and two-left feet, compared to the pretty and graceful gazelle that is Olivia, Kat agrees to help her cousin get Tyler’s attention and an invite to the school’s first dance.  So begins Project Ty-Livia which involves Kat providing Olivia with cheat sheets about Tyler, pretending to be Olivia playing online video games, and prompting her cousin with the right answers to Tyler’s questions. Tyler may start to see Olivia differently but it’s a farce with Kat attempting to project her nerdy self on her popularity-driven cousin while starting to realize that she too is crushing on Tyler.

Of course Crushing It is all about the angst of that first crush. By having two very different girls crushing on the same boy, Joanne Levy demonstrates, with her trademark humour, that infatuations, whether overt or unspoken, can be overwhelming and embarassing but more so when you don’t remain true to yourself.  Thankfully, unlike Cyrano, Kat and Olivia and Tyler all find happy endings, though not those they first perceived as appropriate or attempted to manipulate.


(A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2017, March). [Review of the book Crushing It, by Joanne Levy]. Quill & Quire, 83 (2): 23.