The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 22, 2014
Publisher: Perseus Books
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: summer, friendships, camp, cicadas
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: It’s summertime and Julia is planning on spending the warm weather with her best friend, Taylor. That’s until the new girl moves in. Alyssa is competitive and gets to watch the shows that Julia isn’t allowed to, and soon Taylor is ditching all their plans to spend more time with Alyssa. Despite Alyssa’s unfriendliness toward her, Julia still tries to get in her good graces but instead finds herself preparing for a “Russia” (it’s a ball game) showdown in front of the entire neighborhood.
When I was in first grade, a new girl moved in (I still remember her full name) and stole my best friend. I remember how sad I was when I found out my BFF was hanging out with the new girl (instead of me) and even more so when the new girl was just NOT nice to me.
This is something you never ever forget. It’s traumatic for a kid (and adult, for that matter) when the friend you love the most in the world is suddenly gone and you have no control over making it better. Or even understand why it’s happening in the first place when all you’ve been is nice. Don’t those best friend necklaces mean anything?
Julia’s original dreams for her summer are shattered when Alyssa moves on her block. She acts like a jerk, and for some reason, Julia’s BFF, Taylor, thinks that’s an attractive quality in a friend because she starts secretly and not so secretly hanging out with Alyssa instead of Julia. As you can imagine, it sucks. For Julia, obviously but also for the reader because she keeps trying to make a threesome out of the twosome, to get her friend back, and to try to get Alyssa to like her.
Why why why do some people just not like you? This is such a horrible lesson to learn because sometimes there’s no answer to that question.
So a summer that was supposed to be filled with days at the pool, the occasional trip to the city, and awaiting the arrival of the cicadas is spent with her (ultra cool) parents, convincing them to let her switch rooms and redecorate with more “grown up” decor, and attending music camp with her friend (and crush) Peter. She’s also perfecting her skills at the ball game (“Russia”) that Alyssa introduced to the neighborhood as the two are set to compete in a major showdown to become “Russia” champion of Darcy Lane. (Julia’s commitment to “Russia” was super commendable.)
Throughout the book, I loved Julia’s observations on her parent’s relationship, the meaning of life, and also her great passion for music. (It reflected so much of what I felt during those early days of band in middle school — the triumph of people coming together!) These were the parts of the story that really made me smile and fall in love with her character.
The Battle of Darcy Lane is so charming, bringing me back to those awesome, fun-filled days of summer from my childhood but also reminded me of some of the more difficult parts of being a kid. (I wish I could have told Julia her situation with Alyssa and Taylor would make her stronger but she had to learn that on her own.) Altebrando transitions from YA to middle grade so well, bringing along so many of the reasons why I love her work: the humor and the heartbreaks of life, honesty, and a full picture of Julia’s family and this neighborhood.
Bonus: This book trailer was made by 11- and 12- year old filmmakers! How cool is that? It definitely portrays The Battle of Darcy Lane perfectly: