The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
By Laura Shovan
Published April 12, 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books
Reviewed from e-ARC
Ms. Hill's class has just learned that their school will be torn down in order to build a grocery store. Not willing to sit idly by while the adults decide what's best, they take to their poetry journals and eventually find a way to make their voices heard.
Well, I am apparently the only person on Goodreads who was not completely enamored by this book. I wanted to like it but, really, I feel ambivalent. Maybe the only saving thought is that my ambivalence has more to do with reading this in ARC form rather than reading the final version. I can't say for certain, though.
As I said, I really wanted, and expected, to like this book. Novels in verse are my jam - no joke, I'll read about pretty much anything if you tell it to me in verse form. Additionally, I really liked the idea of hearing from so many different voices and seeing them develop over the course of a year. But here is where I think the ARC format steered me wrong - almost none of the formatting was correct. Where I expected poetry, I got big chunks of text. And this really messed with my reading of the book. I presume - but, again, don't know for certain since I haven't seen a finished copy of the book - that the formatting is slightly altered for each character; that is, each character is writing a different form of poetry. If the formatting had been correct in my ARC, I might have had an easier time keeping the characters straight (there are 18 of them, after all). Additionally, I felt the ending to be extremely anti-climactic.
What I liked about the book: the number of different voices allowed Shovan to explore a greater variety of characters and, when I could keep them straight, I liked reading about their differences. Also, I appreciated Shovan acknowledging poverty and economic differences, though I would have liked an even more in-depth exploration of food deserts and the disparities surrounding them.
Overall, an interesting read, but one that will not be particularly memorable for me. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.