Meet Erica “Chia” Montenegro: a high-spirited eighth-grader with a quick sense of humor, looking to have a fun, normal summer with her friends and ignore her precocious little sister.
Chia’s plan goes well until her mother comes home with nine new bikini tops and the news: She’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Suddenly, the main character in “Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel” is thrown into the emotional roller-coaster of her mother’s illness.
With extra responsibilities, nosy questions from worried friends and a deal with a saint that is supposed to help her mother, Chia can hardly keep up with her own feelings. As she attempts to untangle the mess her life is becoming, she learns how hard it can be to put faith in other people.
Diana Lopez’s latest quirky preteen adventure is filled with sharp jabs of humor and true-to-life characters.
Chia’s group of friends, cleverly called “the Robins,” has the playful, sharp-tongued dynamic of any middle-school clique, complete with the gossipy girlfriends who never tire of watching boys. The single boy in the crew, nicknamed “GumWad,” is loyal and clumsily endearing, adding to the rainbow of personalities.
Lopez’s portrayal of cancer is informative, but mostly focuses on the emotional aspects of the disease. The book is packed with feeling but isn’t preachy, which is increasingly rare.
Particularly refreshing is the author’s take on divergent thinkers, people who function creatively rather than logically. She shows that it’s perfectly OK to think differently, that it can even be seen as a good quality. That was brave of Lopez, because most teen books aren’t willing to delve into those kinds of topics. It’s good for readers to know that they aren’t considered outcasts because they think differently from most people.
Chia is interesting and relatable to young girls because of her common problems and the stubborn sort of strength she uses to deal with them.
But she’s not totally lovable; her pride and blatant self-interest, though realistic, got on my nerves. Also, the way she and her sister constantly antagonized each other seemed mean-spirited at times.
The end of the story was a bit over-sweetened, something common to books about severe illnesses.
Overall, though, this book had excellent characters and a pretty good story. It was certainly satisfying, and I would recommend it to girls 11-14 who liked Lopez’s “Confetti Girl” and “Choke.” If you want something with a realistic yet not depressing take on illness, this book is for you.
Madisen Peek is a seventh-grader at West Lee Middle School in Sanford.