Middle Grade Review of The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando


Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Grade Level: 2 – 7

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Running Press Kids (April 22, 2014)

Series: None

Genre: Contemporary

Source: I received an ARC from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

It is summertime, and twelve-year-old Julia Richards cannot stand the
anticipation. Everyone on Darcy Lane seems to be holding their breath
waiting for the cicadas to emerge, but what Julia and her best friend,
Taylor, want is some real excitement. Which arrives in the form of a new
neighbor named Alyssa, who introduces a ball game called Russia . . .
and an unwelcome level of BFF rivalry.
Suddenly nothing stands
unchallenged—not Julia’s friendships, her crush, or her independence.
But while Julia realizes that she cannot control all the changes in her
life, she hangs onto the hope that everything will go in her favor if
she can just win one magnificent showdown.

Acclaimed author Tara
Altebrando’s middle-grade debut features a voice that is true to the
adolescent experience, where everything is felt acutely in a whirlwind
of all-or-nothing emotion.


“Altebrando brings rich, realistic depth to all of her
characters… It’s a smart, sensitive portrait of an age when change is
in the air, for better or worse.”
—Publishers Weekly

clear, intelligent writing captures the sweet details that comprise
Julia’s everyday life… charming and authentic”.
—School Library Journal

quietly empowering story… is a refreshingly honest take on bullying.
Julia is a flawed but earnest girl, and she learns how deal with mean
girls at her own pace and with cheer-worthy dignity. Readers searching
for something similar to Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume should look no

About the Author:

Tara Altebrando is the author of several novels, including “The Best
Night of Your (Pathetic) Life” and “Dreamland Social Club.” She is also
the co-author of “Roomies” with Sara Zarr. Tara is a Harvard grad living
in Astoria, New York, with her husband and two daughters, and you can
visit her online at www.taraaltebrando.com and via Twitter @TaraAltebrando.
“The Battle of Dacry Lane” is Tara Altebrando’s middle-grade debut. 


My Thoughts:

This is a new take on the theme of growing up. It’s similar to other
books about girls in their tween years, but it’s different too.  It
offers insights that I haven’t seen before on this topic. The book is
well written and the characters feel true to life.

Julia’s friendship with Taylor is shaken when a new girl moves in
across the street. Suddenly, Julia is learning about peer pressure,
loyalty, and how to tell good friends from the bad ones. The importance
of family is reinforced, along with other confidence-boosting things
like extra curricular activities and branching out in relationships.
Although Julia suffers a fair amount of ridicule and heartache, she also
experiences some wonderful things over the summer. She makes mistakes
along the way, but she learns to be comfortable in her own skin and rely
on those people that truly care about her.

One of my favorite things about the book was Julia’s relationship with her
mother. Their (mostly) open relationship is a huge factor in how Julia
sees herself. It also plays a deciding role in many of her choices.  I was very happy to see an involved and caring parent in this book.  Too often, parents are portrayed as indifferent, difficult, or mean.

Some of the content in the book is questionable. There is some mild
language, some sneaking around/lying, and several mentions of a neighbor
couple that walk around their house naked. There is also a Ouija board
involved at one point, and a reference to skinny dipping. Even though
this sounds like a lot of content (and it is) for a middle grade novel,
Julia does make the right choice most of the time. She learns to say no
to activities she knows she shouldn’t participate in (like spying on
naked neighbors), but she also makes the wrong choice sometimes. It’s
definitely a book that I would recommend parents reading first—before
giving it to your child.  Even so, I really liked Altebrando’s approach to tween pressures and growing up.

Content: See previous paragraph.


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  • Reply
    Adriana Garcia
    May 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    I recognize the story's plot in other summaries I've read where a new kid comes in and changes everything for the main character. It feels like so much went into this coming of age story and Julia goes through a lot. Yay for actual parental guidance in this book! I agree a good amount of the time parents are either nonexistent or mean in books. I guess authors do that to focus on the kids which are the main characters. Still, it's nice when there is some parent bonding happening.

    For a middle grade book I don't think I would mind the questionable moments. The Battle of Darcy Lane looks pretty good. Thanks for the great review!

    • Reply
      May 7, 2014 at 1:47 am

      It does sound like a lot of other books out there, but I felt like it brought something new to the table as well. I also think that everyone has to decide for themselves what they feel is appropriate for them and their kids/family.

      I think you'd really like this book, Adriana.

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