book review: Meow or Never: A Wish Novel

title: Meow or Never: A Wish Novel
author: Jazz Taylor
date: Scholastic; January 2021
main character: Avery Williams

Jazz Taylor, better known as Jessica Lewis, is a Black author who lives in Alabama. She was a 2018 Pitch Wars mentee. Her second book, Bad Witch Burning released in August, 2021. On her website, she describes her own battle with depression and anxiety and her enjoyment of HGTV.

Meow or Never is a Wish novel. Wish is a product line from Scholastic with books sets written by different authors. Each set is very girl oriented and developed around a general topics such as Pet Lovers, Crushes, Holidays, BFFs or Family Drama.

Avery Wiilliams is the main character in the animal loving book. She has decided that this first day back to school after winter break will be the day she meets friend. This is her first year in this city located in northern Alabama and she’s not really met anyone yet. As Nic approaches Avery at the bus stop, we quickly realize why she has no friends: she gets so tongue tied that she can’t talk! Avery has an undiagnosed problem with anxiety that makes it hard for her to talk to people she doesn’t know, especially when they’re as cute as Nic. Avery’s beginning to find her own niche in life. She enjoys theater, particularly working backstage and building sets. She’s in her head, designing scenes for the next school performance, and singing loud enough for Nic to hear her! Avery ends up in the school play. Is she ready for it? Is she ready to work this close to Nic? Yes, Nic is her crush. In this light middle school, lesbian romance, Avery’s new list of friends will include Harper and Phantom. Both Avery and Nic are light skin Black girls.

I like that Taylor adds friction to the story by giving us less that perfect characters. Sticking with what’s appropriate for this age group, Taylor doesn’t dwell on issues like the fact that Avery’s mom has gone MIA, she lets this bit of information be matter-of-factly be dropped in the story. We know he family isn’t settled because of all the unpacked boxes, Avery herself has learned to rely on her dad. Harper’s got home issues. We never find out what they are, but we know that Harper is cared for and things work out. Taylor plants the message that things happen, but if we can find people out there who care for us then, we should trust them. Avery’s dad is a vital part of her life, as is her brother who picks on her like a true big brother, but who also backs up and lets her know he cares when she really needs it. Dad has decided it’s time for Avery to see a therapist, but she’s allowed her own agency in make that decision. Different characters are there to provide her with tools she needs, but Taylor allows Avery to make her own choices. Well, except for the cat. There is a cat in the story and like all cats, this one does its own thing!

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