Reviews for About Average

Booklist Reviews 2012 July #1
At the beginning of sixth grade, Jordan Johnston makes "a plan that would send her off to junior high school in a blaze of glory, a flash of triumph, a burst of superstardom." Unfortunately, for "plain and average" Jordan, the year is a total disappointment. Sure, she's sweet and studies hard, but she's a C student. Jordan compiles a list of things she's "okay" at and "stinks" at, and these categories far outweigh the "good" items, which only include babysitting and gardening. Bully Marlea finds the list and uses it to her advantage, but Jordan decides to kill her with kindness, responding to Marlea's meanness with "industrial-strength" niceness. This book, illustrated with full-page drawings, is set over the course of a single hot, humid day, and when the weather heads into dangerous territory, Jordan uses her skills to excel and enjoys 15 minutes of fame. For all those middle-graders who enjoy school stories with believable characters--without goblins, vampires, and witches, thank you very much. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Sixth-grader Jordan Johnston thinks she is plain and average but learns to appreciate herself after she deals with a bully and saves the orchestra from a tornado. While the natural disaster ending feels contrived, her character's genuine insecurities and desires add universality to the story. Elliott's pencil illustrations capture moments with simple, sketchlike lines.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 June #1
How can a plain girl with few talents possibly achieve the triumphal moment of a sixth-grader's dreams? Organized, orderly and all-around average, Jordan Johnston has a more pressing problem than fame in her last few weeks at Baird Elementary School. Classmate Marlea Harkins' bullying seems as unwarranted as it is emotionally painful. Jordan's solution is surprising: She fights back with niceness; at least it distracts. The tension rises as the warm, late-spring weather becomes more threatening and the heat frays tempers. The tornado that finally comes offers relief as well as an occasion for Jordan to demonstrate her strengths. As he has done so often before, Clements (Troublemaker, 2011, etc.) offers a comfortable third-person narrative, a convincing school story full of familiar sights and sounds, as well as a believable cast of characters. Unusually, Clements also models grown-ups with fulfilling, if ordinary lives--a radio-station meteorologist who weekends with the National Guard, an English teacher who provides books from his childhood collection for his students. Even the setting in central Illinois seems ordinary. What is extraordinary is how Clements can continue to produce realistic examples of kid power year after year. More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 May #1

Clements adds to his canon of school stories with this thoughtful novel about an earnest and introspective girl who longs to wrap up her sixth-grade year "in a blaze of glory, a flash of triumph, a burst of superstardom." That's not likely, given that, although Jordan is a hard worker, she's a C student and, according to a list she draws up, the number of things she "stinks" or is "okay" at (violin, chess, a lineup of sports) far outstrips what she considers herself "great at" (only babysitting and gardening). Her self-esteem is further eroded by mean girl Marlea, who gets hold of Jordan's list and uses it to humiliate her. The narration largely consists of Jordan's internal monologue, as she obsesses over her insecurities and her annoyance with Marlea. Clements (Troublemaker) works in some constructive observations about counteracting bullying (Jordan combats Marlea's nastiness with "industrial-strength niceness"). There's no neat reconciliation (a natural disaster takes precedence and gives Jordan a chance to shine); rather, Jordan learns not to let herself be bothered by Marlea, robbing the bully of her power. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (July)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

Gr 3-6--Jordan Johnston wants to find a way to be extraordinary instead of average by the end of sixth grade. She's a C student even though she tries hard, she's not short or tall, and she feels just plain ordinary. Her list of things she is "okay at" (singing, running, telling jokes, and soccer) and "stinks at" (softball, bowling, crossword puzzles, and tennis) is longer than the things she is "great at" (babysitting and gardening). Her list gets into the wrong hands, and Marlea uses it as fodder to make fun of her. Jordan attempts to stop the bullying by responding with kindness. The third-person narrative about Jordan is interspersed with chapters featuring Joe the Weather Guy worrying about a possible late-spring storm. Tensions rise as a tornado hits the area, allowing Jordan to display her extraordinary talent. Clements offers a cast of believable characters as well as solutions for dealing with bullies. Pencil illustrations sprinkled throughout each chapter add to the story. While the natural disaster seems a bit forced, Clements's fans will be hooked.--Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

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