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Local Author Navigates the Challenges of Middle School

Macmillan Publishers

Regardless of your personal history, most people can agree that sixth, seventh and eighth grades are a pivotal period in a child’s life – the middle grades between adolescence and young adulthood. And the new middle grade novel by Milwaukee area native Jane Kelley has that complicated transition at its heart.

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends is set in New York City and features two friends who have just started middle school. Val expects her relationship with Lanora to stay the same as it was in grade school, but Lanora wants to reinvent herself in a school new after her parents have divorced. Lanora's choices put her in a bad place, and Val is left struggling with how to save her friend and their friendship during a delicate time of adolescence.

Kelley wanted to explore the complicated and sometimes scary path of transitioning into middle school, especially after her own daughter had a difficult time navigating the new opportunities middle school presented.

"Friendships with smaller children almost happen because parents are friends, or because they happen to sit next to each other. Proximity is a huge deal and there's very little input from the actual child," says Kelley. "So I think that middle school is a time where kids sort of start to sort themselves out into different kinds of groups, and that can work well if you have a good understanding of yourself...but who does even as adults?"

Jane Kelley is a Milwaukee area native who’s now living back in Wisconsin after years in New York. Her other books include Zeno & Alya, Nature Girl, and Girl Behind the Glass.