The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner is the book I used for my Teaser Tuesday post, just having plucked the book off my TBR stack. A middle grade novel, this was easy for me to read and enjoy. I am always looking for some good realistic fiction novels to pass on to my students and my own daughters, too.
Gianna is very easily liked. She isn't perfect and struggles with many of the same issues most girls face. First of all, Gianna is out for cross country, and is a good runner. She struggles with organizing herself and is having an especially hard time with the science project she has been given: to collect, label, and organize twenty five leaves from different trees. Her Nonna lives with the family and has been having trouble remembering things lately. Gianna's biggest problem is trying to complete her leaf project - especially when one of the snotty, fashion-plate-like girls in her class sabotages her project. I don't want to give too much away, but after reading this part of the book I was so disgusted with Bianca. I was also amazed by Gianna's response. I can guarantee that when I was that age I would not have just moved on and tried to resolve things on my own. There would have been some adult intervention so that Bianca was held accountable for what she had done.
Nonna's forgetfulness continues to worsen and that is also something to be dealt with in this book. While no definitive diagnosis is made, it is obvious that Nonna is slipping away from something much like Alzheimers. How Gianna and her mother deal with it, and how Nonna does as well, is an important look at one family's struggle with this disease.
This is a great middle grade novel that gives girls a great character to relate to. This is Messner's debut novel, and I am hopeful she will be writing more in the future. Check out her website here.