From critically acclaimed author Barbara Dee comes a middle grade novel about a girl whose struggles with writer’s block set off unexpected twists and turns, both on and off the page.
Lyla is thrilled when her seventh-grade English language arts class begins a daily creative writing project. For the past year, she’s been writing a brilliant fantasy novel in her head, and here’s her chance to get it on paper! The plot to Lyla’s novel is super complicated, with battle scenes and witches and a mysterious one-toed-beast, but at its core, it’s about an overlooked girl who has to rescue her beautiful, highly accomplished older sister.
But writing a fantasy novel turns out to be harder than simply imagining one, and pretty soon Lyla finds herself stuck, experiencing a panic she realizes is writer’s block. Part of the problem is that she’s trying to impress certain people—like Rania, her best friend who’s pulling away, and Ms. Bowman, the coolest teacher at school. Plus, there’s the pressure of meeting the deadline for the town writing contest. A few years ago, Lyla’s superstar teen sister Dahlia came in second, and this time, Lyla is determined to win first prize.
Finally, Lyla confides about her writing problems to Dahlia, who is dealing with her own academic stress as she applies to college. That’s when she learns Dahlia’s secret, which is causing a very different type of writer’s block. Can Lyla rescue a surprisingly vulnerable big sister, both on the page and in real life?
Praise for Unstuck
“Just as she has in My Life in the Fish Tank and other titles, Dee showcases the power of compassion and understanding during the crucial middle school years of growth and change. Readers see how anxiety starts, how it grows—and how it can be managed. The tips and tricks here about writing and stress will definitely translate to real life. A top choice for middle school libraries and a great handsell for young adults with younger siblings.” –School Library Journal, starred review
“A heartfelt exploration of a young writer’s struggles and successes, with practical advice included.” –Kirkus
“With well-established insight into the interior lives of middle schoolers, Dee nails some of the tiny, painful intricacies of hesitant new friendship and feeling boxed in by other people’s expectations. Lyla’s passion and frustrations will be relatable to any aspiring young writer.” –Booklist
“Dee deftly depicts the complex and sometimes turbulent writing process, and the self-doubt that can come with it. ” –Publishers Weekly
“A wonderful, heartfelt and honest story about trying to write a novel and survive middle school, Unstuck is this generation’s Dear Mr. Henshaw.” –Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Honor winner Hattie Big Sky