Cover Image: Fly Back, Agnes

Fly Back, Agnes

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For me I was 10 year old Agnes when my parents got divorced, I moved 1,000 miles away into an aunt's house with relatives I had never meet. So parts of Fly Back, Agnes really spoke to me. I felt for Agnes and enjoyed the book a lot because of that connection. However the book is such a enduring book that you don't need that connection and relatable factor to fall for it. I think every kid at some point has experienced either a mean classmate, family conflict or something that has made them want to reinvent themselves and dreams of a better moment. Heck I think even adults want to do that at times. I think Fly Back, Agnes would be one that school kids could relate to and one that would be a library check out favorite. I hope our school library is able to get ahold of a copy. This would be a great book for some summer reading for any bookworm.
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Thank you, NetGalley, for a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!

I thought this book was absolutely delightful-and cringe worthy! Watching Agnes navigate her way through puberty, the consequences of lying, and divorce was painfully relatable. I enjoyed the growth of the character as she realizes that just because her parents are divorced doesn't mean it's the end of the world, and I also enjoyed seeing her parents grow as people as well, once they realized how serious it had an effect on their children. When I have daughters, this is one I would definitely love to share with them.
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Agnes' life seems to have fallen apart after her parents' divorce: to call her mother overbearing would be an understatement, she barely sees her father, her older sister seems to have deserted her family, Agnes doesn't like her mother's new partner and his son, and things aren't going well with her best friend either. When Agnes talks her father into letting her stay with him over the summer, she comes to see it as a chance to start over. She introduces herself to new people as 'Chloe' and starts spinning a web of lies that eventually flies out of control...

I think the whole premise of this book hinges on whether or not you are able to root for Agnes despite the lies that keep snowballing. And the problem is... I didn't. In fact, until we meet the folks in Renew, this is what the AITA Reddit would agree on as an "Everybody Sucks Here" situation. Mo's cluelessness about how her actions affect her daughter(s) is astounding, Richard is just a waste of air, the British-wannabe-child is truly dreadful, the two outer-circle friends and "Lux" are brats, and the dad's hands-off approach to parenting is as incompetent as the mom's hands-on one. So, yeah, I get it, Agnes' life seems crappy enough.

There are two problems, however:
1) Asides from "Lux", all the people this book sets up as "antagonists" are people Agnes will have to reconcile with eventually. And by making them so bad at the beginning (and, asides from the best friend Megan, most of them truly were horrible), you make the long-expected reconciliation at the end somehow seem both insincere and unrealistically neat and tidy.

2) Yes, Agnes' life seems crappy... but Agnes herself is just as bad as the people surrounding her. She judges and complains about pretty much everyone and everything - both of her parents, mom's "new" family, literally everyone her age (her classmates for acting too grown-up, Dot for acting too childlike), everyone her father works with, even "music" for being "boring" (?!)... Her complaining quickly turns into lying (starting at home to even get the chance to spend the summer with her dad), and by the time she gets to Renew and meets some genuinely nice people, then promptly starts lying to them too, I was already out of patience with her antics, and never really managed to gain that patience back.

This is all before we get to the actual meat of the story and Agnes starts getting tangled up in lies to her new friends. Eventually, it starts to become apparent that most of these nice new people have their own secrets and problems, which I suppose is meant to make Agnes feel bad about actively lying about her (comparatively) less problematic lif, but it also felt like it was justifying her in some way. Since one of Agnes' lies was to make herself older than she is, she also gets trusted with confidences that are probably too "old" for her, which we're meant to sympathize with, but the rude way she handles a lot of them (e.g. only focusing on Fin riding a horse while Stella unloads a huge burden) didn't really go a long way in making her particularly sympathetic.

Structurally, I felt like the book tried to cover too many subplots at once, from Agnes' existing family and friends, to Stella/Birdie and Finn, to the strained relationship with Dot, which resulted in none of the stories really getting the time they needed to develop. For his importance to the book, I feel that Fin's storyline went particularly unexplored, from his hot-and-cold attitude and temper throughout the book, to his history in general and the reveal in particular, to the planned future meeting that gets dangled vaguely and never mentioned again.

The ultimate culmination of evens could be seen coming from miles away, which I almost sort of appreciated as an anchoring technique. I did, however, also feel that it was an easy way out for Agnes, and that forcing her to reveal her lies to the people affected in a less dramatic, but more sincere, way might have helped in her redemption. Having everything come to a head at once might have been more dramatic, but it sorted everything out too neatly and was not nearly as emotionally satisfying.

All in all, this was an interesting premise whose protagonist, sadly, made it a frustrating book for me.
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A cute little coming of age story about Agnes and her summer with her Dad. re-inventing herself to be a whole new person has its up and downs, and in the end is it really what she wants. It was a good quick book to read, the pace came and went in some parts of the book and the ending was a bit too clean wrap up for me, but a good book. I can see that it would be good for libraries and schools. Thanks for the ARC NetGalley
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I am a sucker for coming of age stories.

Agnes is at that awkward age. Puberty is happening even if she wishes it wouldn't. But, more important she is navigating how to live in a world that isn't what she wants. Her parents divorce catapulted everything and now she feels displaced. As if there is no where she truly belongs. 

In the story, she does what many dream about: adopting a new identity. Pretending to be someone you aren't so that others will see and like you.

But, life has a way of catching up to you as it does for Agnes. And she finds that the feeling of isolation and not belonging are not unique to her. Some of her new friends fess up to hiding parts of their life. For one is it having a child as a teen. For another it is a gender identity issue.
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This was a very enjoyable story that I think will be popular in school libraries.  Children will be able to relate with the events that take place.  I found it have both funny and sad bit but over all very good.  I would recommend, and will purchase it for the local elementary school.
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Oh, this one gave me all the 'noisy' feels. When I started reading this one (because I was in desperate need of a good children's fiction read!), I thought it must be all the middle-grade-age angsty talks and thoughts. And yes, there's this crazy, loud mom (like most of the mothers actually seem like to kids of such age) and there's this disconnected kind of family issues going on that I thought it's just the beginning of the book. 
Then I went through the second chapter, then the third and the fourth. And yes, the main character is just complaining non-stop. Okay, I thought, she's a kid trying to adjust to her new surroundings.
And then a few more chapters and ....NO. O JUST couldn't read it anymore.

Here's what would have made the book more appealing:
I wish there less of racist remarks even though it might have been written solely for the confusion of the characters involved or just to portray the main character realistically.
I wish the girl-you-are-growing-up-your-body-is-changing kind of dialogues and lines were a bit less tacky and handled with sensitivity even though they were meant to be straightforward and adult-to-kid kind of casual talk. 
I wish comparisons made between the characters were less.

And then there's this last straw for me:
Comparison of a person's face to a bull dog. 


I just cannot read this. 

Thank you #NetGalley for the book #FlyBackAgnes
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I thought this was a good storyline and I really enjoyed Agnes's character. I love coming of age stories so this one strongly appealed to me. However, I felt that it lagged in the middle and that the ending was too tidy. I wouldn't recommend this book to my friends.
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I absolutely adored this story. 
This follows Agnes, a girl who needs to take a break from her normal, messed-up life and ends up creating a fake persona when she stays with her father over summer break. Heartbroken about family issues and the dismissal of her best friend, Agnes turns into "Chloe" who is everything she thinks she is not - confident, funny and lovable. 
The LGBT+ representation and open discussion of periods that was introduced were a lovely addition to the narrative and made me feel a lot closer to the characters in this book. 
Definitely recommended for readers of all ages, Agnes' story transcends any age barriers.
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This is a book cover that simply beckons the reader to enter in. Inside is a summer story that has heart. Agnes is determined not to go to Topeka for the summer with her mom, Mo; boyfriend/mural artist, and his eccentric 6-year-old son. She schemes and fibs to get permission to spend the summer with her dad. He is a free-range parent type and Agnes roams the countryside making new friends and presenting herself as a girl named Chloe who is older and her the life Agnes really wants. When new friends Stella and Finn begin to share their secrets, Agnes begins to count her blessings. She is convicted that it is time to come clean. An end of summer party brings things to a climax and helps Agnes to take steps to move forward. Includes stories of teenage mothers and an intersex baby. Also is a bit heavy on Agnes and the timing of her first period. Mother Mo really spends a LOT of time discussing this with her daughter. The book did allude to many of the signs of that monthly visitor.

Thank you to Lerner Publishing and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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***I received a free copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Fly Back Agnes by Elizabeth Atkinson is a cute middle grade books about growing up. Agnes is struggling with her parent's divorce and her sister moving out. Her friends are changing and she feels left out. When she gets an opportunity to stay with her dad for the summer she takes it. She only told a small lie to get her way. Once she gets to his house she realizes that no one knows her so she reinvents herself with a few more small lies. Eventually the lies stack up and she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation. How is she going to fix this?

The story is told from Agnes's point of view. The struggles of a 12 year old are shared through her. I found the story fun and definitely enjoyed this book. There were however some subjects that were more teen/adult related in this book. Agnes makes friends with teens that have more complicated issues than she herself has. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Middle Grade
Release Date: March 3, 2020
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12 year old Agnes’ life is changing rapidly. Between her parents divorce and the new people they’re dating (and being stuck sharing a room with Georgie, her mom’s boyfriend’s annoying and quirky son), her changing body, and it being the summer before middle school when even her best friend has suddenly decided to be someone she’s not, Agnes is struggling. When her mom informs her that they are going to spend the summer in Kansas for an art show her boyfriend, Richard (aka “The Mumbler”), is involved in, Agnes tells her first lie. And it works. She ends up getting to spend the summer with her father instead. He’s housesitting at a beautiful large home by the river while his girlfriend is away. And the gig even comes with a dog! For three whole months Agnes won’t have to share a room or her father, and she’s always wanted a pet. 

Once she gets to her father’s the lies start to build. Agnes can’t help it. They seem to be working and lies feel easier than the uncomfortable truths she’s living with. Soon she finds herself lying about where she’s from, what she does, even her own name. Instead of being plain old Agnes, she’s now Chloe from Topeka, age 14 instead of 12, and an actress. At first the lies don’t seem like such a big deal to Agnes but as she forms real friendships with the people she’s lying to, things get complicated. 

Ultimately Agnes discovers she’s not the only one with secrets, though she is the only one lying and I really appreciated the nuance here and ways that realistic difficulties of life are brought up. I think that’s a very important part about growing up too- both the development of empathy towards others and that as much as you wish time would hurry up and you could just be older, there really is no perfect age or perfect life. 

I related to this book so much, to a younger version of myself. I would ride bikes with a neighborhood friend and insist we pretend we were famous singers, even going so far as only referring to one another by our fake names. I always wanted to be older then too. The tween years are so hard. You really are stuck in the in between, changing but it’s unclear into what. Fly Back, Agnes captures that sense of being in between so well. I think this would’ve been a perfect read for me or for any kid caught between elementary and middle school, childhood and the teen years. There’s a sense of excitement going as Agnes’ lies build and you wonder how far she can go or how much she’ll get get away with. 

I also loved and didn’t expect that there would be an intersex character in this book. I won’t say who because it already feels a bit spoilerish but the fact that it is handled as important but not the whole or even main story is amazing. That’s true diversity- when diverse characters exist within the story but the diversity is not the whole story or plot itself. Similarly, Agnes is multiracial and again, it’s one more layer to her story but also just who she is. Loved this.

I am so thrilled by the way Middle grade novels are flourishing and the diversity that has become such a big part of YA is trickling downwards, as well as the way Middle grade is really taking on real life, difficult and complex problems. When I was growing up, I remember having a really hard time finding books I could relate to. I loved to read and read all the time but there wasn’t a lot of YA yet and kids/middle grade books often read so simplistic. Being able to read about diverse characters and real issues, to find stories with characters just like you or dealing with the issues you are, is so important and I’d like to think I would’ve felt a little less lonely and a little less weird as a kid if I had books like this one to read. 4.5 stars and exactly the kind of book that belongs in every school or classroom library!
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This was a good, solid book. I just wish that there was something at the end where Agnes and Fin returned 10 years later, as they promised.
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Ah, middle school tropes - growing up, growing apart. I must confess the first few chapters made me sigh.Her parents are divorced, her best friend is suddenly friends with the meanest girl in school, her mom is overbearing and wants her to move to Kansas for the summer with her, her boyfriend, and his son.  It's too much.  Then the lies begin - the first, her dad is sick and needs her to stay with him for the summer.  Then the lies continue to pile on as Agnes finds a cute village across the bridge and becomes Chloe and makes friends in a life she wishes she had.  But eventually the lies all catch up with her and things come crashing down.  Who is she really, who does she want to be.
In the end the book rose above the familiar tropes and was quite good.  There were some things I wish had been developed more fully but for the intended audience it is probably enough.
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The right mix between good writing and a compelling story. I think a lot of readers will connect with Agnes’ sense of not belonging anywhere. I love that this book tackles a tough topic like teen pregnancy, and does it so well. Fin’s arc as a transgendered male was incredibly thoughtful. A great book for kids on the more mature end of middle grade, that want to push themselves to think deeply about important topics.
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Agnes dislikes everything about her. Her hair, her name, what she looks like, etc. So, when she gets a chance to visit her dad over the summer, she goes. No one knows anything about her, so she makes a game out of it. She's now Chloe, an actress and dancer. But what will happen if her two lives come together?

This book is different from all others because the characters have huge, life-like emotions. All of the characters seemed like real people that I would just pass by on the street and not notice. I felt like I was Agnes, the main character, and I was in the story.
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I received this ARC from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fly Home Agnes was a sweet an honest look at how hard it is to be a kid in your own skin. Agnes hates everything about her life - her name, her freckles, her hair, her over-bearing mother, her step-brother’s fake accent, her so-called best friend, and her AWOL older sister. Her summer seems like it’s a chance to start over as someone new, but somehow it all gets more complicated than she ever intended.

This book does a great job putting Agnes’ very real worries into perspective and showing her and the reader that everyone is fighting their own battles.
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I read this book in one day, because, yes, it grabbed me enough that I wanted to see how it would all turn out. 

Overall, good story, of a girl whose parents have divorced, and she decides to spend the summer with her father rather than her mother. And while she is there, she makes up a better life, to the new people that she meets, where life is good, and her parents are rich, and she’s an actress. 

And of course you know this will all come to a bad end, so it is interesting to see where it goes and how.

There are some interesting secrets in the small town she stays in. I won’t reveal them here, but they are all plausible 

All the issues that come up are well dealt with, so that is a good thing.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
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I give this a 3.5 star read. I thought it was well written and displayed the struggles that normal teenagers go through...not liking their life or wishing their lives were different. I enjoyed Agnes, I thought she was true to her struggles and accepting. I also liked the fact that she realized that she may wish her life was different but that at the end of the day, her life wasn't bad.

Agnes develops friends, struggles with the truth, struggles with coming of age but also knows, sees, and feels like she is loved.

Overall, I think it is a great book for middle aged children. There is a stroyline within the book that should not be an issue but probably is with many who just do not understand it. For that reason, for those parents, they may need to see it for themselves to see if it is appropriate for their kids. I'm glad that the author, Ms Atkinson put it in there because it is something that people deal with. I'm glad she did not shy away from it.
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Absolutely loved this book! I haven't read anything from Elizabeth Atkinson before, and chose this novel based on the book cover and brief synopsis. It's a very well written middle grade book, covering a ton of issues, from multiracial families to gender, to menstruation, divorce and patchwork families. And it does it in a sensitive and clever way. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about Agnes and her overbearing mom, cyclist cello playing dead and her family in the wake of divorce. Loved the way Fin was depicted, with all the issues surrounding him. I will definitely look up other titles from Ms Atkinson, and wholeheartedly recommend this book.
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