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"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green




Title: A Perfect Mistake
Author: Melanie Conklin
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook; 273 pgs
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
PurchaseAmazon - B&N - BAM! - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  

The Summary

A moving, voice-driven novel about friendship, responsibility, and fighting against unfair expectations, for fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly.
Max wishes he could go back in time to before he was diagnosed with ADHD, before he grew to be the tallest kid in his class, and before he and his best friends went into the woods in the middle of the night. Max doesn’t remember what happened after he left his friends Will and Joey and the older kids who took them there. He’s not sure if he wants to remember. Knowing isn’t going to make Joey talk to him again, or bring Will out of his coma.
When the local authorities run out of leads, Max realizes that without his help, they may never know what really happened to Will. Charged by the idea that he may be the key to uncovering the truth, Max pairs up with classmate and aspiring journalist Sam to investigate what really happened that night. But not everyone in the community wants that night to be remembered.

Praise for A Perfect Mistake:
"A Perfect Mistake is a compelling novel of friendship, responsibility, and standing up for what's right, even when it's hard. I love all of Melanie Conklin's books. They just get better and better. This is my favorite so far."―Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal winner of Hello, Universe and Newbery Honor author of We Dream of Space

“A creepy and dark setting, misleading clues, threats against the investigator--what more do you want in a mystery? But as it turns out, Max faces even deeper mysteries in discovering himself and his place in the world, and in the end, those are the poignant discoveries we're cheering about. A powerful novel that affirms difference and openness as we watch a boy hold onto friendship with a grip that will not let go.”―Two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt

“Accurately reflecting the experiences of adolescents with ADHD, Conklin crafts a must--read mystery filled with heart.”―Adrianna Cuevas, Pura Belpré honor author of The
Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and Cuba in My Pocket

"Once you start reading you won't want to stop!"―Lisa Fipps, author of Michael L. Printz Honor Book Starfish

"Conklin expertly portrays Max’s challenges, diving deeply into what it means to be accountable and not to carry guilt that isn’t yours to own. Middle-grade realistic fiction and mystery lovers will gobble this one up."―Booklist

“[G]ripping. Mystery and just a little peril make an absorbing vehicle for an exploration of ADHD.”―Kirkus Reviews

My Review

I was so glad to have the opportunity to read Melanie Conklin's latest middle grade book, A Perfect Mistake.  Her previous two books, Counting Thyme and Every Missing Piece, were great , so I knew this one would be as well.

The story is told in 1st person, following Max, a newly minted 6th grader, who towers over all the other students with his growth spurt to 6 feet tall.  On top of that, Max was also recently diagnosed with ADHD.  So he has a lot going on.  But the worst thing to happen, was his best friend Will's accident.  Max is determined to figure out what happened to Will, and why his other best friend, Joey, is no longer talking to him.

This is such an amazing, age-appropriate mystery.  Max teams up with his classmate and budding journalist, Sam, to investigate just what happened the night Will got hurt.  With Max's ADHD, and his own fright from the events of the night, the pieces of the puzzle take a little bit to come together.  Conklin does a perfect job crafting each clue, and allows Max and Sam to really sleuth alá The Hardy Boys.

Overlaying the main mystery is also Max's personal struggles.  His height makes adults treat him differently from other 11 year olds, and his ADHD means he processes things differently.  Max feels a lot of guilt about what happened to Will, so there is also openness about therapy, both for his ADHD and the accident surrounding Will.  Conklin really explores these topics in a way that is relatable to actual kids.  Everything Max learns or discovers feels genuine, and never as if an adult is telling the story.

Friendship is also a big part of this story. Not just male friendships, but co-gender friendships.  It is refreshing to see such a strong friendship develop between Sam and Max, but also to see how deep Will's and Joey's friendship (or lack thereof) effects Max.  The changing nature of these different friendships is set out so clearly that you, as the reader, feel them too.

6th grade can be a tumultuous time for anyone, but Conklin really brings freshness and authenticity to the additional challenges and benefits that ADHD brings.  The way Max learns to function in the world, and the challenges he has to overcome, is written with grace.  I think that Conklin did another amazing job at looking at what most would consider an "adult topic", but which effects kids, and presents it in a very real way for those very kids.  This is a really fantastic part to all of Conklin's stories, and one that makes them so impressive for adult readers, and timely for young readers.

I recommend this to fans of The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Pretty much anyone who wants a really engrossing story.  You'll get hooked by the mystery, but stay for the heart.

Final Rating

About the Authors

Melanie Conklin grew up in North Carolina and worked as a product designer before she
began her writing career. Her debut middle grade novel, Counting Thyme, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, winner of the International Literacy Association Teacher’s Choice Award, and nominated to four state reading lists. She is also the author of Every Missing Piece, A Perfect Mistake (2022), and her picture book debut, When You Have to Wait (2023). When she’s not writing, Melanie spends her time doodling and dreaming up new ways to be creative. She lives in New Jersey with her family

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