Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Access Denied (and other eighth grade error messages)

Access Denied (and other eighth grade error messages)

Denise Vega
For ages 12 and up
Little Brown, 2009   ISBN: 978-0316034487

Last year, her first year in middle school, was very hard for Erin Swift. She survived it though, and now she is looking forward to going into eighth grade. She is more confident now, she has friends, and she is one of the leaders in the school computer club.

It isn’t long before it becomes clear that eighth grade is not going to be as easy as Erin thought it would be. For one thing, Erin has a locker partner, Reeve, who makes Erin feel decidedly uncomfortable. Reeve smokes, she wears a ton of makeup, and she seems to be so far ahead of Erin in the whole dating boys thing.

Then Erin meets a boy called Blake and they start to date. Erin quickly falls “in like” with Blake, and all is going well except for one thing. Erin’s friend Mark seems to have a problem with Blake, or perhaps he has a problem with Erin dating. Erin insists that Mark is just a friend, but there are a few people who think that there is more going on between Mark and Erin than meets the eye.

The whole dating and boyfriend situation gets even more complicated when Erin breaks up with Blake, and then falls head over heels in something with Jeff Massey, who is friends with Erin’s big brother. Jeff seems to like her, and yet Erin isn’t sure. Maybe she is reading too much into his words and actions, or maybe he really does think she is “cute.” Erin is so wrapped up with thinking about Jeff, that she fails to notice that something much more important is going on, until it is too late.

In this excellent book, Denise Vega brings back Erin Swift, who is a little older and perhaps a little wiser, but who is also clueless when it comes to boys and dating. The author gives us a front row seat for Erin’s eighth grade adventures, telling Erin’s story in narrative form, and also through Erin’s private online blog. We experience Erin’s triumphs, her failures, and her pain when she loses something precious.

This book gives readers a sympathetic, poignant, and sometimes funny picture of one girl’s struggles as she tries to come to terms with the confusing and complicated businesses of growing up.