Cover Image: In the Role of Brie Hutchens...

In the Role of Brie Hutchens...

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Brie was a very dramatic and mediocre 8th grade student. Her dramatics were part of her life goal to be an actress- a soap opera actress. Her mediocre grades did not reflect her true intelligence, and for a period of time she was goal oriented to complete all homework and study for tests- much to the delight of her parents and teachers. However, at times,  Brie could be her own worst enemy. For example, Brie lied about an important religious school event in order to make her mom feel proud of her and divert attention away from female body images found on her computer. This lie was another continuing emotional disconnect between Brie and her mother. Both felt this disconnect, especially after Brie was outed, but didn’t fully acknowledge it until the reality of the lie forced an emotional meltdown between mother and daughter. 

This story dealt with many realistic topics such as coming to terms with one’s sexuality and hiding it, struggling to pay bills, communication problems with parents, school struggles, first kiss, emotional outbursts, and boy crazy supportive best friend. This was a lot for a 13 year old to deal with, especially without the full support of her mother. All the characters were interesting and relatable. Besides the serious topics, there was also a mix of humor. 

Having taught 8th grade for many years, the problems Brie had with her parents, the emotional outbursts, the classroom shenanigans during discussions or even homework checking antics were not uncommon. The author portrayed a realistic picture of this 8th grade school setting. Added to this was Brie and her crush, Kennedy, who couldn’t talk to their parents about their sexuality, and  often looked to their friends and  teachers for guidance and support. These heartwarming scenes were perfectly executed and added so much depth to this storyline. But the most heartwarming-and heartbreaking- scenes were the ones that involved Brie and her mother. These well written scenes were the heart and soul of this story, especially the soap opera audition dialogue. 

This was a highly engaging read from start to finish and definitely recommended for teenagers  and parents. 
An ARC was given in exchange for an honest review.
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Brie loves soap operas, which is an odd thing for girls her age to even watch. She's been watching them for years with her mom, and it's the primary way for them to bond. But when Brie discovers that she likes girls, it becomes harder and harder to communicate with her mom, and leads to a lie - that she's crowning Mary in her Catholic school's May Crowning ceremony.

There are a lot of strengths about this middle grade novel. I loved that it showed the complicated feelings this family has about Brie's coming out - which seems realistic and heartbreaking. I loved that many of Brie's friends and classmates seemed to not find her coming out as a big deal, even in the context of a religious school. And Brie's obsession with soap opera was interesting and unique.

Brie and Kennedy (her crush) also has a complicated relationship, which I appreciated. It was definitely not a meet-cute scenario!

I just didn't feel as engaged with the characters as I wanted to. The relationship between Brie and her mother really drives the novel, but I just didn't feel as attached or invested as I should have.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.
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I'm not going to lie, this book had my attention from the first page. A sapphic middle grade novel? Sign me the hell up. 
But this story was somehow much more than I was expecting and yet everything I needed it to be at the same time.
This follows Brie, who, when she is caught looking at nude pictures of one of her favorite soap opera stars, comes up with a lie to pacify her mom - a lie that ends her up in a lot more trouble than Brie ever thought possible. 
I loved every part of this story - from how hard Brie's parents were working to make her dreams come true to the unwavering support of Brie's best friend all the way to Kennedy's and Brie's struggle with the catholic faith, especially considering they are part of the LGBTQ+ community. I also adored Brie's obsession and passion for soap operas because I grew up with them, too, and could relate a lot to other people not understanding why I loved them. 
This was just such a wholesome, empowering story that I won't forget any time soon. Melleby is a master at writing authentic adolescent voices and I am intrigued to see what she tackles next.
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Enter Brie - self-centered middle-schooler questioning her abilities, her parents, her friends, her Catholic religion....and her sexual identity.   As Brie navigates through the self-doubt and lack of confidence she finds herself at odds with mother and unable to reach her father through his depression over losing his job and his initial shock at Brie’s revelations of her sexuality.  Brie also is coping with understanding why she keeps pushing away her crush, Kennedy, who has responded favorably to her attraction, but is afraid to come out for fear of retribution of her parents and the Church.  

This story is very relevant for today’s teens who are struggling with revealing their sexuality in fear of non-acceptance due to deep-rooted religious beliefs.  This is a good story for parents, teachers, and other adult caretakers of tweens and teens to gain perspective in the emotional upheaval that affects many aspects of a child’s world when there is a seeming lack of support.
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Another great middle grade novel from Nicole Melleby. I enjoyed this one a lot. Melleby makes her characters feel real and honest in a delightful way. Brie's story isn't perfect and not everything turns out in the way she expects it, which I think will really resonate with young readers. As someone who went to Catholic school for 12 years, I appreciated the school setting, even if it meant I had a hymn about Mary stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I'm looking forward to what the author does next!
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This is a book I wish had existed when I was fourteen and realizing I liked girls.

Brie Hutchens loves soap operas and part of her daily routine is watching them with her mother. When her mom mentions liking one actress’s hair, Brie agrees but doesn’t admit to finding more than her hair attractive. When her mom catches her accidentally looking at nude photos of the actress, Brie lies about getting to crown Mary in a special ceremony in May at her catholic middle school to distract her mom and give her a chance to choose her own timetable, as well as try to get a better handle on her feelings. The lie spirals as she tries to make it reality, while also realizing she has her first crush on the girl most likely to actually get to crown Mary in May.

Brie was so relatable in so many ways and reminded me of the confusion of figuring out attraction, as well as all the anxiety around who to tell and how and how will they react. Brie is also very selfish, unsurprising for her age, and it hurt to see how much her parents were sacrificing and all they were doing, especially her dad who had been recently laid off, so she could graduate from her middle school with her friends. The most painful parts, though, had to do with Brie’s mom and the way she kept doing her best not to talk about Brie liking girls once she found out - and not by Brie’s choice, which is always hard to read.

I really loved this story and how real Brie felt. Things are messy and they hurt, but the end was so sweet and hopeful. I’m glad this book exists for questioning and queer teens, especially from more religious backgrounds. Even though Brie has trouble connecting to her faith, it’s very important to her mom and that adds to Brie’s fears and stress about coming out. I really enjoyed the way each chapter opens with a scene, if you will, from a soap opera that helps set the tone for the chapter, and I loved how soap opera really helped Brie come out to herself and recognize her feelings for what they were. I really enjoyed this book and hope the teen girls who need it will be able to get their hands on it.
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Brie Hutchens loves soap operas—the drama, the actresses, and the connection with her sometimes-distant mom. With the help of soap operas (in the form of some photos of Kelly Monaco and a moving scene between Bianca and her mother Erica from All My Children), Brie is also beginning to come to terms with her sexuality. Her devoted Catholic mom and boy-obsessed best friend, Parker, ask her which boys she likes at every turn. Brie is pretty sure she likes girls instead, but that doesn't mean she's ready to say it out loud. There's a lot going on in this novel: Brie's dream is to be an actress (ideally on soaps), and she hopes the first step will be to attend the local arts high school. Brie's family is struggling financially, leaving Brie's educational future a bit up in the air. Her dad is working as a custodian at her school (to lower the cost of her tuition), and in spite of herself Brie is embarrassed to have him around. Her older brother's a bit annoying, Parker can't decide which boy she likes the most, and her mom's part time job cuts into their shared soap-watching time. To top it all off, Brie's questions about her sexuality begin to seep out—first through the feelings she's beginning to develop for Kennedy (the best student in her eighth grade class), and then into a Google Doc in which she catalogues the LGBTQ soap opera scenes she finds on YouTube. But as Brie's mom tells her, the internet isn't private. This novel is by turns funny and so-heartfelt-it-hurts—masterfully balanced by Nicole Melleby, and told in a charming, authentic young voice.
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In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby was an emotionally honest and overall wonderful read. What really drew me in and made me love this one was the connections to soap operas in the book. As someone who grew up watching my mom's shows (or stories as my grandma says) and will even catch those that are left (#missyouloveyou Passions, As the World Turns and Guiding Light), this was something that hit my specific feels in a certain kind of way. This is the story of Brie. Brie aspires to be an actress and to attend a performing arts school. One evening while looking at pictures of her favorite actress online, Brie's mom enters her room. Worried about what her mom has seen, Brie proclaims she has the honor crowning Mary at the May ceremony. That'd be awesome, except it's not true. From there, Brie commits to doing whatever she can to earn this honor for real. In the meantime, Brie is navigating her own attractions and identities. The incredible piece of this part of the story is she's doing this through soap operas. She begins to find stories that help her better understand how she feels, and these stories help her to find her voice. As a character, Brie was an absolute and authentic delight via her realness. She also is working through a great deal of "tough stuff" with her family around finances and employment, and she additionally works through all those struggles that middle school seems to bring. I will tell y'all again what a joy this book was for me. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2020. Oh, and one last thing - The scene Brie chooses for her audition at the performing arts school was just so darn great. It makes me want to go down a soap opera YouTube rabbit hole rn. . .
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Actual rating: 3.5 stars

This book follows an eighth-grade Catholic student, Brie Hutchens who is starting to figuring out herself and her sexuality. A lover of soap operas, and an aspiring actress with big dreams. Eventually, she starts to have a crush on the know-it-all girl in her class, Kennedy. Brie also has a struggling relationship with her mother from the very beginning of the book. Throughout the whole novel, she navigates her emotions, friends and family, along with her school (grades, play, and the Mother Mary Crowning), and her faith. 

The very first thing that went through my mind while I started reading it was how dramatic Brie was, especially for a 13-year-old, but that thought vanished away, the more I kept reading. I liked how Brie's character grew and progressed as the story went on, and how powerful her character was. Another thing I liked is how she was motivated to get what she wanted. 

I liked the relationships in this story, mostly between Brie and her father; it was clear from the start that she was his little girl and that they were close. On the contrary, to the relationship between the father and her, the relationship between Brie and her mother was strained. Brie struggled to keep up with her and trying to make her proud/like her, while also trying to make her see who she really was. Another relationship I enjoyed reading about was Brie and her teachers - especially Ms Santos and Ms Brophy, who helped her through her struggles by getting better not just academically but also mentally. On the note of relationships, I wished if there were more scenes with Brie and her brother, Trevor.

The reason why I gave it 3.5 stars is because at times I felt that it was slow-paced and could have been "faster". I also wasn't a huge fan Wallace and Parker since I thought they were a little bit flat, and because Parker mostly talked about boys.

I would totally recommend this book because this is a great coming of age story.
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Likable 8th grader -- and soap opera fan -- Bree is pining to audition for a place at a prestigious performing arts high despite her mother's doubts, family money worries, and her father's job problems. Bree is sure it can happen, and is aiming to get the lead role in her Catholic school's upcoming play in order to boost her chances. At the same time she is trying to understand her intense feelings toward other girls while just tolerating her best friend's increasingly boy-crazy conversation. Amidst all this angst Bree manages to complicate her life even more when she falsely claims at home that she has been chosen to crown the Mary statue during a spring ceremony, which thrills Bree's devout mother enormously, but has virtually no chance of happening. The consequences of this lie, added to a coming out moment during an important audition, cause the mother-daughter relationship to explode before transitioning to a satisfying resolution on multiple fronts. This sweet coming of age/coming out novel is a good choice for upper middle school readers and parent/young adult book discussion. Note: the publisher suppled an advance reading copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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ARC provided by NetGalley but all opinions are my own.

"Brie never felt ready, no matter how many times she had to say the words. She hoped that Kennedy would figure out how to do it on her own time. She hoped that when she did it, it would be because she was ready. Not because she felt pressured to."

so i am... crying. jsdfsh no one is surprised. i knew i would love this book because i love Nicole's writing and i adore her other book, Hurricane Season, which is one of my favorite books of all time, and middle grade sapphic novels in general have a special place in my heart. i think this is because i wish i had known i was sapphic myself earlier on, and had gotten to enjoy some stories, experiences and feelings earlier. but anyways.

so this book follows brie, a passionate thirteen year old who loves soap operas and dreams of one day being an actress. she has a crush on a girl in her class, kennedy, and also struggles through an awkward and complicated relationship with her mother.

to be honest, when i read that this story would be set in a catholic church, i was scared, for reasons i'm pretty sure you all know and understand. BUT i had no reason to be, afterall. this is one of the things i appreciate the most in this book, because despite it being a catholic school, the support that the teachers offer brie is astounding. and heartwarming. and relieving. and so wholesome. and so is the support shown by her friends and her family, even though it takes her mother longer to come to terms with brie's sexuality.

speaking of, brie's mother is... flawed, even though she says she tries her best. her relationship with her daughter is quite strained and awkward. her invading brie's privacy was one thing i could not forgive, no matter how much i tried. she is not bad, she never stops caring for and supporting her daughter, and eventually comes around, but she could have dealt better with the whole situation.

it's really hard for me to write this review because so, so many things hit very close to home. so here are other aspects that i loved, that i will just mention briefly:

- the teachers encouraging brie and the other students to question their faith, never scolding them for doubting and always trying to guide them
- brie's mom making sure that brie knows consent is important
- brie never pressuring kennedy about coming out
- everyone apologizing for their mistakes and owning up to them

PLEASE read this book, it's such an important story and so heartwarming. my review does not do it justice, but maybe after i detach myself a little from it, i'll manage to be more coherent. anyways, thank you Nicole for another beautiful story. really looking forward to the next one!
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This book was an emotional punch straight to the heart, in all the best (gay) ways. It’s also very clearly an ownvoices story and that truth shines through every page and settles this specific kind of calm over the reader. 

The story itself is pretty simple (a teen start figuring out her sexuality & the world doesn’t make it easy for her), but it’s not the dry outline that makes a book, is it? It’s the emotions all the events bring, it’s the character’s journey, her path to growing up & fighting for herself.

Because, you see, Brie has to struggle with a lot. She goes to a Catholic school where a boy got suspended for just googling gay stuff on his phone. Her mother is very religious and devoted to Virgin Mary, whereas Brie has trouble even focusing during mass. The family has financial problems and Brie dreams of going to a private acting high school, which would help her become an actress. She’s experiencing her first crush, while listening to her best friend talking excitedly about a different boy every day. And on top of all that, she’s a kid in eight grade.

So much packed into one book, so much trusted on a shoulder of a kid who’s just trying to figure out how to be herself.

My favourite aspect of the book is definitely Brie’s relationship with her mother, though. It starts already a bit strained, with Brie wondering if her mom even likes her, and as Brie gets more and more sure she’s not straight, that relationship only gets worse. I do not mean to say I enjoyed watching Brie navigate her life without that vital support that her mother should have been offering - quite the opposite really. But the way it was framed, it was obvious this is a story for LGBT audience, for kids who also don’t have perfect parents & who need someone to tell them that “hey, you should put yourself first, your mom should love you unconditionally”. 

And while Brie’s mom did not know how to deal with her daughter (and the narrative was clear on the fact it’s not her who should be dealing with anything), Brie had a number of supportive people around her. This is not a dark, hopeless story in any capacity. Which is another thing I deeply appreciate: showing that even if your own family doesn’t accept you, there are others who will.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens isn’t just a gay coming-out story, even though that’s a major plot point. It’s a story of a delicate phase of adolescence, of looking for acceptance & reassurance, of figuring out what kind of person you want to be when you grow up.
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I was never a huge soap opera fan. I had a ton of changes to watch them when I was younger since I was home during sick days, summer vacation, when I was going part time to community college, and various holiday breaks.

However In The Role of Brie Hutchens not only gave me a sweet story to read, but it even made me look up a few soap opera scenes that are discussed in the book.

Nicole Melleby's In The Role of Brie Hutchens is the story 8th grader Brie Hutchens who ends up accidentally telling her mother that she has been chosen to crown the Mary statue at school to distract her mother when she walks in on Brie looking at photos of one of her favorite actresses. The problem is that no one has been picked for that honor yet. Brie will have to do everything she can to be chosen to crown Mary & get a good role in the school play if she wants her mother to approve of her attending a performing arts high school next year. All while this is going on Brie is dealing with struggles regarding her sexuality and her possible crush on one of her classmates named Kennedy.

First of all, I really loved the idea of a middle grade soap opera viewer. I have not read a lot of books that have characters who watch soaps let alone a middle grade novel. Not only that, I really liked the fact that each chapter started with a description of a coming out scene from a soap opera or just a scene from a soap opera that relates to the chapter in question. As I said before I have never really watched soap operas before, but  I definitely looked up a monologue that Brie recites and references in the book after reading about it.

The next thing I enjoyed about this book was the relationship between Brie and her parents. It felt extremely realistic especially in a Catholic household. I especially love and appreciate that arc that Brie and her mom go through. It was heartwarming, emotional, and just really helped give the story even more things to enjoy.

Finally, I really liked Brie and Kennedy's relationship. It was cute & sweet. There was a semi "enemies to lovers" trope that the book did somewhat that I really liked too. They get to learn more about each other throughout the book including their interests, home lives, and feelings about the world as well as one another.  Their final scene painted a huge grin on my face and without giving anything away...well it just made me really happy. Brie and Kennedy also on their own were just fun characters as well as many of the people in this story. Every character was fleshed out, three dimensional, and realistic.

If I had to say something I didn't like very much about the book I guess I wanted a more concrete answer to this one question that was being brought up throughout the book. In the end we kind of get a confirmation about something regarding Brie's future, but it is not 100%. Since other plot points in this book were confirmed I had really hoped this would be something that we had an exact answer for. I understand why the author may have left if somewhat open-ended, but I just kind of wished that the results had been more concrete than what we are given. This is only a small nit pick though and in no way should be a deciding factor in whether you read this book.

Overall, this book is filled with fun characters, interesting relationships, and even a an almost contagious soap opera connection I was not expecting from a middle grade novel or really any novel. This book is perfect for anyone who loves a little fun & drama in their lives.

4 out of 5 stars

**** out of *****
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***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS by Nicole Melleby in exchange for my honest review.***

4.5 STARS

Eighth-grader Brie uses old soap opera scenes to make sense of her life and her crushes on girls. Now that her mom works full time, they no longer bond watching General Hospital. Brie isn’t sure her mom will love her if she finds out Brie is gay. Lies, trouble in school and family problems add up to a whole lot of angst for Brie just when Kennedy, the prettiest girl in school, might feel the same way as Brie.

Brie is perfectly imperfect, not the best fit in her catholic school she doesn’t understand her mother’s strong faith. Young readers will relate to wanting to do the right thing and messing up more often than not and fears of disappointing a parent.

As an adult, I loved the snippets of soap opera scenes from the eighties and nineties, but I’m not sure teen readers will be as interested in the references. I watched many of the episodes Nicole Melleby used and laughed out loud when Brie used Guiding Light’s Reva’s “Slut of Springfield” monologue to try out for her school play. Guiding Light went off the air before most tweens were born and without that reverence, I’m not sure the scenes will mean as much, or anything which is why I didn’t round up to 5 stars.

A big recommendation to readers and libraries for the delightful IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS.
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I could really feel for the protagonist, how one action cascaded into others. While I could understand her parents' reactions, to me they seemed toned down. Maybe the author didn't want to lose focus on the protagonist or maybe she wasn't brave enough--the tension seemed to resolve itself a little quickly.
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Melleby follows her fantastic debut, Hurricane Season, with this phenomenal story. In the Role of Brie Hutchins helps fill the need for more upper MG stories. This one will engage and speak to readers examining their own identities. The author expertly handles the main character’s evolving relationship to religion, her family, and her sexuality. Highly recommended.
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Brie loves soap operas. It’s been a way for her to bond with her mom for years. But now Brie has a secret. She googled Kelly Monaco’s name (a soap opera star) and found topless photos. And thing is: Brie likes them.

Her mom walked in on Brie discovering this, but Brie slammed the laptop shut quickly before her mom could realize it. In attempts to distract her mom, she told her that she was picked to crown Mary, a big deal at her Catholic school. But it’s not even true.

Brie quickly begins her mission to earn to that top spot, becoming a better student than she ever has before. As she begins this mission though, she struggles as her mom takes on more hours at work, as she continues to hide that she likes girls, and as she tries to earn that spot to crown Mary.

This book can be a little bit tough at times to read. [Spoiler] Brie is outed to her mom, and her mom doesn’t respond that well. It’s heartbreaking to read, even though it’s realistic for many people.

But the book is beautiful. It takes you in to the story quickly, and you will root for Brie throughout the whole story.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens releases April 21, 2020.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this self-discovery, coming-of-age book. Brie's first romantic crush is told in such a compassionate and sweet way and her relationship conflicts with her parents are very believable. I was unsure how I felt about the setting of this story being in a Catholic middle school at first (I felt it narrowed the target audience somewhat), but once I got into the story I was totally convinced it belonged in my public school setting on many levels.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC of this book.

There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this story. I like that Brie explored her sexuality, and tried to figure out what it meant that she had feelings for girls. I like that she tried to reconcile that with her religion, and explored the distance she felt from Catholicism that is such a common occurrence for kids that age. I also really liked the link to soap operas, as they played such a huge part in my own teenager years and my ideas about relationships. This is a very character driven book that felt a bit slow at times, but has so much to offer.
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I heard about this book from the publishers at "Book Buzz" and I knew I had to read it!  

As someone who is both in the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as working for the Catholic church (as a teacher as well as many other positions), I felt that this had potential to being a great book.  I am glad to say, I was not mistaken.  

Brie was such a great character, and it was wonderful watching her grow into herself.  There were many points in which I thought she was going to be a "Mary Sue" type character, and have everything work out 100% how she wanted it to.  Thankfully this was not the case at all.  Even though there were many wonderful things that happened, Brie went through a lot of realistic struggles through the course of this book that helped make her the great character that she is.

At first I was worried that this would be a very niche theme for a book, but I was glad to say that was not the case.   I am looking forward to buying this for my library when it comes out and recommending it to teens who are looking for a good LGBTQIA+ read.
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