Ana on the Edge
One of the things I love about being an English teacher is the great opportunities I get every once in a while to interact with authors. This year I got the chance to be paired with an author through #KidsNeedMentors and I was so lucky to be paired with the amazing A.J. Sass! They've been so great about keeping in touch with us and sharing their love of books, and tidbits about the writing process. My students have loved every interaction they've had!
This week I had the chance to read an ARC for A.J. Sass's upcoming debut novel Ana on the Edge. Ana on the Edge is all about Ana-Marie Jin, a twelve-year-old who has just been crowned US Juvenile figure skating champion. Despite that fact, Ana has never been one to wear sparkly dresses--even during competitions. So when the next season's routine ends up being princess themed, Ana isn't really sure how to feel about it!
But then Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy about the same age and when they become friends, begins to learn all about gender identity. Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy when they first meet and for some reason, Ana doesn't correct him. In fact, it feels nice not to be assumed to be a girl for once. But Ana begins to discover that it's difficult acting like one person in front of family and old friends and another in front of new friends. As the competition gets closer and closer, Ana's newly understood identity comes closer and closer to the light.
This book is really all about identity and coming to understand one's self. Especially for middle-grade readers, this can be a crucial time when they learn about their gender-identities, sexualities, things about their true characters. A lot of self-discovery happens as teens enter middle school and then high school. This is why this is EXACTLY the type of book that I want to have in my classroom library.
Ana struggles with a lot of things in this book--identity, time management, new and old friends, money worries. There is also a ton of diversity in this book with Hayden, a transgender boy, and Ana--nonbinary, Asian, Jewish, raised by a single mother, AND a vegetarian! I feel like many of my 7th graders would find ways to relate to Ana and the other characters in this novel. Many of them would also have their eyes opened to the myriad ways that people are different from each other and how that makes us all part of TEAM UNIQUE!
I love the way that Sass artfully delivers hint after hint foreshadowing Ana's development and understanding of identity and gender in the novel. From the beginning, we start to see Ana's journey and join in the discovery as the pieces come together. Very masterfully written!
This book is expected to be published in October of this year and I definitely plan on purchasing a copy for my classroom so that I can recommend it to students. Those who love diverse novels, journeys to find one's identity, middle grade, and figure skating will all enjoy this book!! You can pre-order a copy here!