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Twelve is an endearing short story following the coming of age adventures of young Marley. It’s written in the first-person, and immediately the narrator cements herself as a personable and engaging storyteller. Marley is sarcastic and witty and talks to the reader like an old friend, she’s also dramatic (and knows it) – which I find highly relatable. Naturally, I tend to prefer third-person narration, but really, I have nothing bad to say about the narration in this story. It was really upbeat, easy to read (but not boring), and the conversational style pulled me in very quickly. The syntax is highly refined and uncomplicated.
I think what makes Marley such an engaging character (and narrator) is the self- awareness that comes from her being an adult retelling a story of her youth. Somehow she makes me invested in pre-teen friendship drama while also reflecting how silly it all seems. Honestly, you had me laughing aloud at some of the commentary. 2008 is not a year I ever thought that I would feel nostalgic for, but somehow the talk of MySpace and the slightly awkward text conversations that always involved ‘hahaha’ or ‘lol’, took me to that place. And the relationships between the characters felt so authentic, I began to feel like I was twelve again, and was definitely taking sides in all the drama. It was like experiencing all the fun of being that age without having to live with the bitchiness or the cliques...
...The theme of sexuality felt authentically and sensitively handled throughout the story. Marley really doesn’t seem to know who she is just yet, but has always been aware that she isn’t interested in boys like the other girls are. She grapples throughout the story to understand her own attraction to Jess, and at times she seems to be pushing these feelings away. Of course, we don’t get to know exactly what Marley does after we learn that Jess is straight, but it felt as if Marley wasn’t ready yet to see her sexuality and would pursue the more conventional and approved of relationship that her heart wasn’t in.
Middle school is hard enough without the added confusion of interpreting feelings that are outside of the norm. Marley is an athletic seventh grader who is well-liked by her classmates and does well in school. When all her girlfriends talk about boys, though, Marley finds she has other interests that are more compelling. One day, a new student named Jess drops her binder after art class and Marley helps her pick it up. Jess takes Marley’s breath away, and Marley finds herself in the middle of an internal struggle between who she is and who others expect her to be.
Marley tells her story in the first person, speaking directly to the reader. The majority of the story is told through a stream-of-conscious narrative, explaining Marley’s experiences and decisions in a conversational and enjoyable way. Interspersed within Marley’s discussion are brief text message conversations with her friends, including emojis and text speak. The addition of text messages increases readability while incorporating an important means of communication among preteens.
Moderate length chapters and colloquial language make this book well-suited to middle grade audiences, including reluctant readers. Occasional profanity appears in the text to amplify Marley’s emotions, adding intensity to the story without being overwhelming. The narration perfectly expresses Marley’s personality and her reactions to the events taking place around her. She is a relatable and likable character who steps off the page and into readers’ hearts.
Instead of being a story with a clear terminus, Twelve is a peek into a specific time in Marley’s life. Readers ride through Marley’s experiences alongside her, sharing in her enthusiasm, disappointment, jealousy, and confusion all along the way. It feels like a true slice of life with characters who are clearly defined and recognizable.
As a twelve-year-old girl, Marley’s body is changing and drama is erupting around her. Add to that the fact that she is trying to understand her feelings for another girl, and it would be overwhelming for anyone. This debut novel layers palpable middle school experiences on top of friendship and self discovery in a beautifully engaging way. Twelve is a highly recommended addition to libraries for middle grade readers.
I really enjoyed reading this book! It's written in such a unique style, almost like a blog rather than a book, and it feels very natural and authentic to what I remember life being like as a preteen. I remember that everything felt very high stakes and important, and things were kept secret that didn't really make sense to keep secret. I think young readers will really identify with Marley and her experiences and how she views the world. The fact that Marley has a friend who she doesn't really like hanging out with but just does clinches the realism for me. That's something that adults won't put up with but teenagers are afraid of losing even their worst friends.
I think this is a story that almost everyone can relate to. Everyone goes through patches in their teens while trying to figure out who they are, but in Marley's case (and I'm sure most LGBT kids) there's an extra layer of confusion and fear since their romantic interests stray from that of their friends (as far as they know at the time).
It's a story of self-discovery but in a subtle way. It's not overt with the changes that happen with Marley, she doesn't suddenly change personas overnight, but the change she does go through is one that will stick with her for the rest of her life. The biggest and most profound changes tend to be the ones that take time.
AMAZON PURCHASE REVIEW
United Kingdom Review
This was such a cute little book! It follows twelve year old Marley, who had a relatively simple life before. She had awesome classmates and loves playing basketball with her team... But now the classes are all mixed up and she's having to mix with the 'enemies' from the other group and spend mornings without her best friend Teagan... Things look grim. But then she finds that the others really are pretty cool. And then there's the new girl Jess...
As Marley navigates the school year, she finds that she must navigate first dates, new friendships and new feelings, all of which are narrated in her bubbly, youthful voice. She is funny and relatable -- a lot of the scenarios and the way she responded to them internally really took me back! That awkward, confusing 'tween' stage was captured perfectly!
Instagram Review Excerpt
Meet Marley. She’s twelve years old and she knows three things. She loves basketball, her best friend is Teagan, and she likes boys... right? But then she meets Jess and as they become secret besties, Marley starts to question everything she thought she knew.
I find that the author @_thecoolauthor captures a 12 year olds speech patterns and ways of thinking extraordinarily well. From the text conversations (falling out with friends over nothing at all) to being absolutely confused by first relationships (we’ve never spoken before but now we’re going out), I really think that this book is written from a 12 year olds perspective so well.
As I read it I definitely found myself relating to Marley in some ways - I was never athletic but I definitely had the whole “awkward first relationship” situation - where you want to break up with someone but never find the right time - and having to choose between best friends? Definitely a problem for tween girls! 😂
If you have a young child and you want to breach out their reading? This is a lovely book about an almost-teenager discovering herself.
"DAWG THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD, LIKE GAH DAMN I’LL DEFINITELY BE BUYING A COPY!! IM ON CHAPTER 8 AND THIS SHIT HAS ME SMILING AND THINKING BACK TO MY FIRST CRUSH AND SHIT!!"
"TWELVE IS SUCH A WONDERFULLY WRITTEN BOOK. IT MADE ME REMINISCE ON MY TIME SPENT IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, WHICH WAS A WONDERFUL TIME IN MY LIFE. THE BOOK IS VERY CONVERSATIONAL WITH EACH PAGE GRASPING AND KEEPING MY ATTENTION. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU READ THIS BOOK, AND I LOOK FORWARD TO READING THIS TRILOGY. THERE IS DEFINITELY A NEW AUTHOR IN TOWN, AND I’M PROUD TO CALL HER MY FRIEND."
"M. L. WILLIAMS HAS A NATURAL TALENT FOR STORYTELLING, AND HER COMING OF AGE MIDDLE-GRADE NOVEL TWELVE WILL HELP THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO FIND THEIR IDENTITY AND THEIR PLACE IN THE WORLD.”
- Readers’ Favorite editor and author,
"I WAS VERY DRAWN IN BY THE STORY!"