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Title: In the Role of Brie Hutchens
Author: Nicole Melleby
Published: 30th of June 2020 – Algonquin Young Readers
Format: eARC (Netgalley) – 272 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
It’s finally Saturday! Yay! I’ve been quite productive this week so I’m going to be able to spend the weekend chilling a bit and hopefully reading quite a lot and getting some important spreads finished in my bullet journal for next month’s post as I decided to wait a while before doing one!
Today I’m bringing you my first-ever blog tour for Algonquin Young Readers! I was so excited when I received the email, I really wasn’t expecting it and after reading the blurb, I knew I wanted to give this book a chance, I’m so glad I did! Keep reading for my thoughts on this book!
Thank you to Kelly from Algonquin Young Readers and the author for letting me take part in this tour. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby is a Middle Grade LGBT contemporary about a young girl called Brie Hutchens who goes to a private Catholic school, loves soap operas, but doesn’t have crushes like her best friend Parker does. I don’t read very many books with characters that are as young as this, but it was lovely to have a younger cast for once, especially because sexuality is an important topic. I haven’t read a contemporary like this one for a very long time but I enjoyed it so much, so I’m very glad I gave it a chance!
This book is set in America, mostly in a private Catholic school. Brie and her friends go to this expensive private Catholic school, but Brie is constantly questioning why her mum loves Mary so much and how come she doesn’t have the same faith. She is also currently struggling with school work, but when her mother walks in on her looking at something she shouldn’t, she blurts out that she will be “crowning Mary”, an experience she thinks will make her mum love her more.
The setting of this book was a completely new one to me. My mum went to a private Catholic school, but other than that I had no idea what it was like as I’m not religious. I don’t read many books with religion for that reason, but I actually enjoyed this setting, it taught me a lot about what it’s like to go to a Catholic school, but also the pressure put on you about your faith and behaviour. It was a really interesting setting and definitely a different one from what I’m used to, but I liked how the fact that even though this girl is at Catholic school, she is questioning her faith and her sexuality, and this gives me hope for people who struggle with these same questions.
There are loads of great characters in this book, but I think that these ones where either my favourites or I found them to be really important in the plot.
Brie: I have to say that I loved Brie right from the start. She is 13 and she has always loved soap operas, she watched them with her mum all the time and it’s what makes their relationship special. But when her mum catches her looking at something and she has to uphold a lie and try to get picked for the May Crowning, cracks start to appear in the mother-daughter relationship. At one point, I felt really bad for Brie because she was already struggling with a lot of questions and her mum did something that made me so angry I could have climbed into the book and shook her, but I do think that it was a good representation of how hard it can be to come out, especially when your parents are on the more conservative side. Overall, I loved Brie, she was so gutsy, she knew what she wanted and even though she was finding everything hard, she didn’t give up.
Parker: Parker is Brie’s best friend and she was so sweet throughout. When Brie is hiding something from her, she gives her space but then when she knows things are tough, she sticks by her and helps her through it. I loved her because when she found out about Brie, she gave her support and love instead of pushing her away, it was the best! She was a really great friend and I love reading about friendship in books so it made me happy!
Kennedy: I have to say, I’m not sure I really liked Kennedy. I can completely identify to Brie when she was annoyed that Kennedy is the girl who has all the right answers and is the perfect daughter, I’ve felt unworthy just like Brie and this bit of the book annoyed me, but it happens in every class, so I thought it was really well-executed, but I still wanted to shake her a few times. I loved how this book turned out however, both Kennedy and Brie are struggling and until the end, neither realises just how much they have in common.
Brie’s mum: I’ve already said that I’m not religious and although I completely respect anyone who is, I did want to shake her mum who kept hiding behind her Mary necklace and wouldn’t look Brie in the eye when things were tough. I didn’t like her mum, even though she was nice to her at times, like the whole “I can’t look at you right now” really annoyed me, I would hate for it to happen to anyone, and I know it does, so it was really accurate, but it broke my heart. Her mum was a good representation of how some parents can struggle to come to terms with their children questioning their faith, identity, sexuality or anything else, but I still wanted to scream at her aha.
Brie’s dad: Brie’s dad does show a bit of discomfort or uneasiness a few times in the book, but overall, he was so supportive and loving towards Brie. He is definitely the “good guy” out of her parents and I loved how their relationship evolved throughout the book. I’m glad that Brie had a parent she could rely on while her mum was giving her the silent treatment and I can totally identify with how hard her dad worked to get her where she wanted to go because my dad was the same with me. I just really liked his character and found that he was just so nice!
Even though this book is a Middle Grade, it touches on a lot of complicated and important topics, which I loved. I feel like a lot of Middle Grades are very inclusive, understanding, and helpful to anyone who reads them. From reading more Middle Grade books thanks to our book club, I’ve definitely found this to be accurate and I think it’s great how these books can sometimes be a lot more complex than other books for other audiences!
Religion: I’m not a fan of religion, I personally am not religious even though my daily life has been changed through various things I’ve taken and identified with from various religions and philosophies, but I’m not religious and I often don’t like how in some books people are justified as acting a certain way because they are religious, but I was surprised that I did not get this vibe at all from this book, which was really appreciated actually. We are all entitled to our own opinion about religion, and I liked seeing how even though Brie goes to a private Catholic school, she was questioning her faith and some people she spoke to were feeling the same way. Even teachers who worked at the school were understanding and I found this to be really nice. I was sceptical about the whole religious bit of this book, but I actually really enjoyed it.
Family: I think family is an important topic in most Middle Grade books, and because of the audience and characters of these books being a certain age, a lot of Middle Grades go into detail about not agreeing with your parents or struggling to make them understand what you are feeling. I think this topic was really well handled, family can be complicated and even though this family is somewhat messed up, they worked it out and after trying to understand, the most important thing of the whole book is that they all still love each other. I know that not every family is sunshine and butterflies, but I think that the family side of this story, along with the difficulties involved and the pain sometimes caused was a really good addition to the story.
Sexuality: This was definitely a very good book and I really liked reading about Brie’s journey to discovering her sexuality and accepting herself. I think this is a great book for people struggling with the same questions, I love reading books with LGBT rep and this was a great one. Brie has to come to terms with her sexuality in a place where she is supposed to follow the same path as everyone else, this makes it a lot harder for her and she has to wonder about even more things, mainly her faith and how her mum is going to perceive her, but I thought that this made Brie all the braver and I wanted to give her a big hug and tell her it was all going to be okay when her mum was not giving her the reassurance she needed.
Soap operas/art school: I actually loved this part of the plot so much!! If you are from the UK, you will know about the three main soaps on British TV: EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. I grew up watching them along with a few others, but haven’t seen any of these shows in a few years. I did completely identify to the way that Brie perceives these shows though, even though it’s full of drama and most of the time unnecessary drama, not to talk about the fact that they all have the same plot and you can almost guess what’s coming next every single episode, it’s completely addictive and you can’t stay away. I loved how Brie was able to come to terms and understand herself and her sexuality through these soap operas and I was completely rooting for her when she was trying to get into art school. I studied drama/theatre between the age of 11 and 18 and I loved it so much, this brought me a lot of nostalgia and it was a great subplot.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and although there is a lot of confusion, questioning, pain and tears throughout the book and between the characters, I thought that it was lovely and I’m so glad I got the chance to read it.
This book is really great and has good rep throughout. I appreciated how even though the setting of the book is religious and this in a way “explains” the characters’ behaviours, it was also more than that. This is a book about religion, faith, family, sexuality, coming to terms with who you are and finding your passions, it was a great story and I loved reading it. I gave it 4 stars and would recommend to everyone, it’s a great Middle Grade that can be read by anyone of any age.
Thank you so much to Kelly from Algonquin Young Readers and Nicole for letting me take part in this tour, it was such a lovely experience, and thank you to Netgalley for providing me with the book to review.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – NICOLE MELLEBY
Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.
Inspired by her own experience balancing faith with sexuality, Melleby strove “to write a story that shows there is no one “coming out moment.” That “moment” happens often, and frequently.” Melleby uses her insight to explore the most complex and important relationships in young people’s lives, spinning “a story that will engage middle-grade readers who enjoy thoughtful novels that address complex topics” (School Library Journal).
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Kobo