Cover Image: Just Lizzie

Just Lizzie

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Member Reviews

Just Lizzie is a great middle-grade read about discovering oneself.  Lizzie doesn't understand why everyone is getting crushes in middle school.  She's never had a crush on a boy (or a girl or anyone else).  While working on a science project, she discovers asexuality and about growing up different from other kids. This story is compelling and a heartfelt read for anyone who is going or went on a journey of self-discovery.
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I jumped right into this book from the start. The characters seem real, and the diverse cast is inclusive and dynamic. Thank you to #Net Galley for the copy of #Just Lizzie. 

This middle grade debut novel examines themes of identity, coming of age issues, and relationships with both family and friends. 

Thumbs Up
Addressing topic of asexuality in a middle grade text
Coming to terms with changes in family dynamics
Understanding peer and adult relationships

Thumbs Down
Lizzie doesn’t present as a good friend, which is a missed opportunity to create a relatable character in helping young people understand more deeply some of the topics in the book. 
Author attempts to do too many things. Either the assault or Lizzie trying to find herself could have carried the text. 

This book is a solid read for middle grade students looking to a text to help them through an assault, uses of self-defense, come to terms with changing family dynamics, or understanding parts of themselves they may not currently understand.
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I really liked this one. A discovery to aceness story that made me really emotional. I teared up, raged and just felt for the main character so much.
I really liked everything ace in this but also the mc's relationships to her friends, to her family, etc.
And I liked how it spoke of trauma and how the mc decided to deal with it. I really enjoyed this book, everything in it. I would reread it in a heartbeat and I can't wait to read more by this author.
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3.5 Stars (rounded up)

"Just Lizzie" by Karen Wilfrid is a compelling story about a fourteen-year-old girl named Lizzie navigating through the challenges of growing up. Lizzie faces changes in her family and friendships while trying to figure out her own identity. The plot takes an interesting turn when a school lesson on asexual reproduction prompts Lizzie to explore her own feelings about sexuality. She discovers the term "asexual" and starts to understand herself better.

The book does a great job of introducing the concept of asexuality and debunking some common misconceptions. It's a helpful read for people of different ages who might be questioning their own sexuality. The author encourages readers to do more research on the topic, recognizing its complexity. While the story could have focused on fewer side plots for a clearer narrative, it effectively portrays Lizzie's personal growth and the changing perspectives of those around her. The book emphasizes the importance of open conversations about sexual identity and acceptance, making it a valuable read for anyone going through similar experiences in their adolescence.
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Reading this book makes me so envious that I didn’t have books like this when I was a child. In a relationship-obsessed world, Lizzie just didn’t get the hype. This was a wonderfully written middle-grade novel about an eighth grader, figuring out and understanding asexuality as well as all of the anxiety that comes with it.
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A sweet middle grade read. I wish I had this book growing up.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for thix arc
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In a Nutshell: A middle-grade/lower-YA novel about an asexual girls coming to terms with her sexual orientation. Honestly, I love the intent much more than the content, but just for the fact that it introduces the topic of asexuality to the target age group, I will be generous with my rating. 

Story Synopsis:
Fourteen-year-old Lizzie isn’t sure why she hates her developing body or why she can’t say the right gushy things to her pregnant teacher the way the other girls can. But most of all, she wonders why she doesn’t feel ANYTHING towards other boys or even girls. It is only when the topic of asexual reproduction in plants comes up in class that she feels like nature might hold an answer to her queries.
The story comes to us in the first person perspective of Lizzie.

Bookish Yays:
💐 The biggest yay is easily the main theme of the book. Asexuality is, as far as I know, not yet a sexual orientation explored in books for this age range. The very fact that the book does not just mention asexuality but also makes it the focal point of the content deserves applause.
💐 The secondary characters, be it Lizzie’s best friend Sarah Nan or her teachers, are interesting. They aren’t portrayed as perfectly positive characters, as is common in this genre, but as humans willing to learn. There are two mother-daughter relationships in the book, and the contrast between them adds much to the story. I always like it when human characters are depicted realistically. 
💐 Some of the plot points, though minor, were interesting. I especially enjoyed the details of the self-defence classes and of Lizzie’s science project on asexual reproduction in nature. The scene where the characters ponder over what it means to become an adult is also well written.
💐 It is interesting to see how the author linked asexual reproduction with asexuality in humans, though the two concepts aren’t exactly the same. She also succeeds in establishing asexuality as normal and that asexual people can still have relationships. 
💐 The age of fourteen is a midway age - neither child nor adult. It is a time of confusion and a time of change. The story incorporates both these aspects well, with all the characters (even the adults) experiencing either a modification in their circumstances or an uncertainty in their life.
💐 The book highlights ‘Asexuality Visibility and Education Network’ (AVEN) multiple times. There is also a list of helpful resources at the end of the book. 
💐 The author’s note is excellent. As she identifies as asexual, and she is also a school teacher for middle-graders, she seems the right person to pen a book on this topic. 

Bookish Nays:
🌵 This is a debut work, and it suffers from the common problem of debut novels, what I call the ‘kitchen sink’ syndrome. The theme of asexuality was strong enough to carry the book. But the plot still incorporates – either at a detailed or a superficial level – the importance of self-defence, (attempted sexual/physical) assault, bullying, sexual activity in teens, understanding of adulthood, acceptance of menstruation, fighting the “boys will be boys” mentality, body dysmorphia, change of residence, aromanticism,… Every single theme here is important, but throw in too many in a single book and the value of each goes for a toss. The book should have stuck to the few that are closest to the core theme of asexuality. 
🌵 Extending the above, a common confusion is the difference between the connected but distinct ideas of asexuality and aromanticism. Lizzie seems to be both asexual and aromantic, based on what she reveals about herself. But the book clearly puts her in the asexual category, and aromanticism gets but a passing mention. Though the author’s note clarifies the reason why she chose to keep aromanticism aside, I still feel the book missed on an excellent opportunity here, especially as it is meant for young minds going through the same confusion. 
🌵 Lizzie’s character didn’t appeal much to me, despite my feeling sorry for her. Her irritation with her mother doesn’t feel justified. She either cries or gets angry with anyone who chooses to date or speaks of attraction, but doesn’t communicate her feelings. I don’t think she made for a great role model, and also that her portrayal doesn’t do justice to the ace community. Being asexual doesn’t mean you hate everyone else for thinking about attraction or romance, but that you yourself don’t feel the same need. Even if she were still trying to understand herself, her passive-aggressive attitude seemed extreme. This behaviour might be an effect of her inner turmoil, but it didn’t make it easy to like her.
🌵 I didn’t get why the plot point about the assault was given so much focus in the book. It was just incidental to the main plot and added nothing much of value. 

All in all, I admire the author’s attempt at bringing this important and underrepresented sexual identity to the attention of the young target readers. The implementation might have been a bit here and there, but there are enough positive points in favour of this OwnVoices debut novel. 
I would advocate this book to older MGs and above, i.e. the 11+ age group (and that too, only to mature eleven year olds.) Though this is marketed as a middle-grade book, younger MGs might find the number of topics and the information a bit too overwhelming. Plus, the detailed mention of the assault, the details about sexual activity, and the scene where one character flashes her friends make me reluctant to recommend this to the middle grade crowd. Some plot points will be better suited to the lower YA age range (13-16 years). That said, the writing is strongly MG in style. 

3.5 stars, rounding up for the core theme.

My thanks to HarperCollins Children's Books and NetGalley for the DRC of “Just Lizzie”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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**Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for this ARC in exchange for an honest review**

Lizzie is a 13 year-old girl who is just starting 8th grade, and carrying a lot. She is haunted by the trauma of witnessing her mother being attacked by their former neighbor who was obsessed with her. So much has changed in such a short amount of time, too - her family moved, her brother is going off to college, and her relationship with her best friend, Sarah Nan, is just not the same. 

Once back at school, everyone seems to be concerned with romance and sex, demanding to know who likes who, and how far they've gone with them. Lizzie realizes she is just different, and doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. Her brother has Ally, a girl he has been on and off again with, and Sarah Nan has Ned, who she's not even crazy about anyway. Lizzie is afraid of ending up alone, because she doesn't share these desires of pairing off with someone. After all, those closest to her have made their romantic relationships a priority over all else.

A capstone research project (CARP) is required for all of the 8th graders, and at first she struggles to decide on a topic. As time goes by, she is inspired by her life science teacher talking about asexual plants. She wonders, can people be asexual too? After all, it would make sense. She starts to express her epiphany to a couple of the adults she trusts the most, only to be shut down. As time goes by and she opens up to more people, she finds acceptance and support.
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Lizzie feels like an alien. It seems like all her friends and family are getting crushes, dating, falling in love or having sex and she just...doesn't get the big deal. 

She discovers her identity through a school science project and struggles to navigate coming out in ways true to real life for many asexual people. 

She also copes with growing up, interpersonal relationships, experiencing trauma and learning to set boundaries. 

Just Lizzie dealt with heavy topics and can get dark at times, however, it's beautifully written and very descriptive in an artful way. 

I loved watching her and her friends grow in their confidence and the dialogue and personalities felt realistic for the characters' and their ages. 

I do feel like Lizzie was still pressured to be alloromantic in the end and was only partially being accepted, just as asexual. However, I was satisfied with her self-acceptance and her brother's response to her coming out. 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was such a sweet middle grade read! 

"There’s the part of me that doesn’t understand kissing or cuteness or attraction, and then there’s the part of me that feels so lonely. How do I make sense of those two parts? Maybe I’ll never make sense of them."

Meet Lizzie, a fourteen year old girl navigating a difficult period of transition. Between a traumatic event she experiences with her mom, a move across town, her brother going away to college, and the typical middle school drama, Lizzie is also struggling to figure out her identity.

Having seen her friends and brother dating and getting into serious relationships, Lizzie struggles to understand why those are things she should be wanting. She can't wrap her head around it. Until she learns a term that makes everything make sense. 

"Asexual." Could that be her?

Follow along as Lizzie learns what it means to figure out and embrace her true self.
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I wanted to enjoy this more, but I felt like the story was just as confused as Lizzie herself. Like there were too many potential plot points that none really got the attention they deserved.

Despite that, I liked and enjoyed that Lizzie searched for answers and the representation of asexuality that came from it. I liked the self-defense class and learning to have a voice. I liked it being shown that adults don't have all the answers either, even those you admire. That sometimes they get things wrong, too, and that those you don't necessarily like can actually be your biggest supporters.
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This was a great journey of discovery for a teen girl on the asexual spectrum. She discovers the identity, and then has to comes to terms with if and how it fits her and decide if she wants to "come out". I like that she discovers it due to a science project and how she connects it to the plant and animal world in her presentation, finding the courage to not only express herself but raise awareness.

However, I had some issues with her through the middle of the book. I think it's supposed to be implied that she also has some body dysmorphic issues as she is extremely embarrassed by maturing bodies, especially her own. She can't even bare to see a glimpse of her self in the mirror before getting in the shower. And her lack of understanding of things seems to even extend to not understand how she could get her period or how a married teacher could be pregnant despite knowing the reasons and about sex. What's more, she practically recoils from the teacher when she sees her and comes off offended that that the teacher got pregnant, as if it's a betrayal some how. She's angry at her friend Sara and older brother for dating, which is NOT a good look. But I think based on the context she saw it as betrayal again and that she would loose them if they had someone.

That being said, by the end, she makes strides towards changing this behavior and way of thinking for the better. She starts to get used to her changing body, as it seems it was the fear of changing as she grew up that was the cause. She also accepts her brother's relationship and asks to spend the holidays with them when they are all adults, which is sweet. While her friend has broken up with her "boyfriend", she accepts that Sara wants to date and that she isn't "loosing" her loved ones because they date. She also accepts herself as sexual and not caring what others think about it and that she still may end up with someone by "falling in love with their brain" the way Sara suggests she will. Of course, it helps that both Sara and her brother say that asexual makes sense for her, and that her mother also seems to come to terms with it and accept it. 

As a journey of self discovery of what's dubbed the forgotten identity it's needed, timely, and well executed. It may help other young asexuals discovery their identity and help raise awareness and acceptance of the identity among people.

Despite my issues with some of Lizzie's behavior and thoughts, I still give it Four Lightsabers for coming through with the character development and journey by the end.
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I just love how there are so many different types of characters in middle grade these days. Lizzie’s journey of being surrounded by people having crushes, feeling different, then being comforted by learning about asexuality was so rewarding to see. On top of the stress of middle school friendships, Lizzie and her family have had to move after an incident with their neighbor. Taking a self-defense class helps her to deal with some of her emotions after that scary situation.

This was such a great read. I loved seeing the different topics that were brought up in the story. Like how upsetting it can be when someone you assumed would understand you ends up not being what you need at all. Or what it means to grow up and become an adult. Just Lizzie is a beautifully written book that touches on some heavy topics without ever getting too dark. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a good coming of age story that discusses asexuality.
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Just Lizzy is an 8th graders journey of self-discovery and acceptance. It gives off Beverly Cleary vibes, though more accepting and less humiliating. Lizzy uses her science project to test out her thoughts and feelings about herself. Having just moved across town, a lot of changes are going on through her life and those of her friends. In the end it all works out. I adored Lizzy, and could feel a her resonate with a certain piece of me. I was brought back to how vulnerable we feel going through puberty and how it’s ok to question who we are. Just Lizzy is captivating and will have you turning pages until the sun comes up. I started this book in the morning next thing I know it’s dinner time and the book is finished. I one hundred percent recommend this book.
I received an arc and am leaving this review of my own volition.
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I'm sure this will be a fine book, but I definitely will not have time to get to the story before the archive date happens, in which case I will not be able to give my feedback. That would negatively impact my response ratio, which is not good, as I already missed out on giving feedback on so many books because this year has been so absolutely busy and stressful that I have not had the time nor mental capacity to get to many of these books before they are gone forever! It is as upsetting for both sides. I apologize, but I will do better for the future! I am appreciative that I have been giving access to so many great new releases.
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Just Lizzie, by Karen Wilfrid, is a lovely middle grade contemporary following Lizzie, an 8th grader dealing with a lot of changes in her life. Her family just had to move neighborhoods after a traumatic experience with a neighbor, her brother moved to college, and she is surrounded by friends who are all having their first romantic experiences while she feels completely alien, never having had a crush. When she learns about asexuality, she finally feels like she fits, but navigating that self-discovery and trying to share that part of her identity with those close to her proves difficult. 

As an aspec person, I am so grateful that this book exists. I can't even begin to imagine what it will mean to the ace kids who encounter a word that fits them for the first time. 

Many things about this book were done extremely well. It's an extremely character-driven story, and that's reflected in the care given to character development, not just for Lizzie, but also to figures like her best friend and her brother. Every character in the story feels very real and human—you may not like them all the time (indeed, I couldn't help but dislike a few of them), but they feel alive in a way that I don't often see, particularly in middle-grade books that are fundamentally limited by a younger narrating voice. 

Lizzie is a compelling and relatable protagonist. Her character development, not just in response to her discovery asexuality but also in regards to the rest of the story, is palpable and believable. She reads exactly like an 8th grader who's just starting to figure herself out—she doesn't know everything, but she's starting to figure out how to navigate the world. I felt for her so much, in all of her uncertainty and self-doubt, and I just know that she'll be such an important character to so many readers. 

The focus on community and changing friendships is also done well; Lizzie is learning who she can rely on, and old friendships are being tested by the changing social world that comes towards the end of middle school. While Lizzie's journey with asexuality will be particularly important for young queer kids, I think that this aspect of the story is something that will be relatable and comforting for almost every kid reading it. 

I think that the asexuality plot was handled and explained well, although I wish that there had been a little more exploration of the differences between asexuality and aromanticism; this book will likely be a first exposure to asexuality for most people, and I think clarifying those terms would have been a little better, especially since Lizzie's experiences seemed very in line with both identities, but the book sticks strictly to her identifying as ace. I think that the asexuality plot was done well and in an age-appropriate way, but I just wish there'd been a little more exploration of the two terms for the sake of readers being introduced to the identities.

My only fundamental critique of the story was that I don't think that the plot line with their old neighbor was necessary or helpful to the plot—the other story lines all built together well to complement and enhance Lizzie's self-discovery and character growth, but I truly could not figure out what the book was trying to do with that plot line.  It feels out of place and doesn't make much sense with the rest of the book. It was written okay, but not with the same execution and skill with which the rest of the story was written.

Overall, though, I cannot recommend Just Lizzie enough. I still can't fully believe that this book exists; I'm so grateful for it, and I know it will mean the world to so many people. I would recommend this to anybody; even if you aren't usually a fan of middle grade fiction, this is such a well-written story of asexuality that I truly think everybody should read it. I'm giving it 4.5 stars, taking off half a star only for the few minor critiques described above.
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Just Lizzie is an incredibly heartwarming and authentic middle grade story about a girl discovering asexuality while also navigating the regular trials and tribulations of middle school. 

The author is a middle school English teacher, and she absolutely NAILS the voice of 8th graders. There's the perfect representation of the push and pull of feeling grown up and also feeling terrified that you're not grown up enough yet while everyone else is. There's care and nuance put into all of the characters and relationships, though my favorite was definitely Lizzie and her best friend Sarah Nan. Even though they're so different from each other, and they get into fights and misunderstandings throughout the book, there's also a deep respect and mutual history between them that felt so honest and true. All the mother-daughter relationships felt that way too - imperfect, but also modeling healthy ways to have conversations together. I teared up at least twice. 

A key part of Lizzie's coming-of-age is her discovery of asexuality and her grappling with how she might identify. There are so few books that have asexual/ace representation in general, but none that I know of that discuss it at a middle grade level, and I'm so thrilled that this now exists. I wish I had this book when I was in eighth grade. 

There's also a lot of navigation around the loneliness that comes with puberty, middle school, and the natural changes that happen with friendships during that time. Again, Wilfrid really nailed the nuances. 

This is a book written for and about middle schoolers, but don't let that stop you if you're not in that target audience - I think it's perfect for middle school and up. Regardless of your sexuality, I think there's something in Just Lizzie that so many people will be able to relate to. I utterly adored this and will be recommending it to all kinds of people!
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Just Lizzie by Karen Wilfrid is a moving debut that resonated with me as an ace reader. This story is full of difficult issues like sexuality, stalking, domestic violence, and mental health issues but it is also a beautiful exploration of a middle school searching for identity and reason in an uncomfortable world. Lizzie is a curious child with neurodivergent coding who is trying to work through a recent traumatic event and find her place in the world. The author approaches her discovery of asexuality with such care and understanding and I feel like Lizzie will have support and love in her future.
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Oh my goodness, I loved this book. Lizzie was an absolute joy to read and being inside her head definitely brought me back to some things about being a 14 year old girl. The journey Lizzie went through of learning about herself and asexuality was so beautiful and at times, messy, but isn’t that what life is? I also really liked the intricacies of her friendship with Sarah Nan and how true it felt to friendships between young girls. The author’s note at the end was really lovely and I liked that she included resources for asexuality and aromaticism. I think this is a really important book on a subject that we need more discussion and visibility on. I think having Lizzie be 14 was perfect as her questions about asexuality were really juxtaposed against her friends who were all concerned with their crushes. A very well done book that I absolutely recommend. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Clarion Books for an advanced digital reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Just Lizzie is a book I wish I had growing up. As Lizzie works to understand herself, her changing friendships, and the world around her, she brings readers along on her journey. Thoughtfully written and poignant, each character feels genuine in their actions and feelings. This book is for anyone who wonders about their place in the world, especially when they feel like they are seeing life in a very different way. I would encourage libraries to include it in their collections. I know I will be buying it for my school.
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