The Meaning of Maggie Book Review + Win a Copy of a Fabulous Read
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern isn’t your average family fiction. In it, 11-year old Maggie Mayfield is struggling with some of the normal causes of pre-teen angst, getting good grades, wanting the affections of a cute boy, avoiding torment by her boy-crazy, fashionista older sisters.
As a reader, this book hooked me from the start. I couldn’t help but open my heart to Maggie. Her endearing blend of innocence and burgeoning maturity as well as her diligence and work ethic made me wish I was her teacher. Her penchant for sweets and her love of reading made me wish I was her friend.
As a writer and a writing teacher, I found this book rife with opportunities to study some high-level character work. I have a suspicion that Sovern spent a great deal of time getting to know Maggie both before she began to write the book and over the course of its development. I admit, I was at first taken aback by Maggie’s inconsistencies. I couldn’t figure out who this character was, and I wanted to reach out to the author, to tell her that Maggie isn’t believable – that she is too inconsistent. But then, I realized that Maggie is a complex character – at turns surprisingly immature and at others wise beyond her years. The reader is sometimes confused about who Maggie is because Maggie herself is confused. She is at that developmental cusp where she is getting ready to leave childhood behind and enter into the next phase. She seems reluctant to move forward. At one particularly poignant moment, after her sister tells her she’s not a little kid anymore, Maggie shouts, “YES.I.AM.” Once I realized my confusion came from Maggie’s confusion, I realized just how carefully crafted a character she is.
Alternately, perhaps Maggie would like to skip the teenage years altogether, thus avoiding the make out, lip-gloss fueled existence of her sisters and move right into young adulthood where she can persue her plans to become President of the United States. In either case, writers seeking to develop complex characters who are struggling with their own sense of identity could really benefit from studying this book.
This book is also chock-full of possibilities for teaching social issues. Not only is Maggie’s father struggling with a debilitating disease, the name of which is revealed about two-thirds of the way through, but the family is struggling with other issues as well. Dad has lost his job as an attendant at the airport, so Maggie’s mother has taken a position as a head housekeeper for an upscale hotel. Maggie never says that her family is struggling with money. That idea likely wouldn’t even occur to her. But the implication is there. Writers using this book as a mentor text could study ways Sovern weaves social issues into the fabric of the story without really naming them.
One lucky Two Writing Teachers reader will win a copy of The Meaning of Maggie and a Maggie for President button. I believe after you read the book, you will want to wear your button proudly. I know I do! Just leave a comment in the comment section sometime before 11:59 on Wednesday, April 30, and you will be entered to win (US and Canada residents only).
The Meaning of Maggie will be released on May 6. In the meantime, check out this nifty promo video here.