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The Insiders

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Three kids who don’t belong. A room that shouldn’t exist. A year that will change everything. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Meg Medina, this debut middle grade novel from award-winning author Mark Oshiro is a hopeful and heartfelt coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héc Three kids who don’t belong. A room that shouldn’t exist. A year that will change everything. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Meg Medina, this debut middle grade novel from award-winning author Mark Oshiro is a hopeful and heartfelt coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone. Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure. “Sometimes hilarious, sometimes devastating, but always full of heart, The Insiders carves out a space for us all to be our true selves.” —Kwame Mbalia, New York Times bestselling author of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky


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Three kids who don’t belong. A room that shouldn’t exist. A year that will change everything. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Meg Medina, this debut middle grade novel from award-winning author Mark Oshiro is a hopeful and heartfelt coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héc Three kids who don’t belong. A room that shouldn’t exist. A year that will change everything. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Meg Medina, this debut middle grade novel from award-winning author Mark Oshiro is a hopeful and heartfelt coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone. Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure. “Sometimes hilarious, sometimes devastating, but always full of heart, The Insiders carves out a space for us all to be our true selves.” —Kwame Mbalia, New York Times bestselling author of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

30 review for The Insiders

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zoraida

    Mark Oshiro's middle-grade debut is a heartbreaking but uplifting look at the lives of young queer kids. They're empowered by community and buoyed by a touch of magic that makes this contemporary novel stand out. Also, there's a Zoraida cameo. Spot it! Mark Oshiro's middle-grade debut is a heartbreaking but uplifting look at the lives of young queer kids. They're empowered by community and buoyed by a touch of magic that makes this contemporary novel stand out. Also, there's a Zoraida cameo. Spot it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    The book features a queer boy who, fleeing from bullies, discovers a magical closet that not only provides him sanctuary, but also unites him with two other kids facing persecution at their own schools across the country, helping them find friendship and strength in one another. i just know this is going to make me cry Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram The book features a queer boy who, fleeing from bullies, discovers a magical closet that not only provides him sanctuary, but also unites him with two other kids facing persecution at their own schools across the country, helping them find friendship and strength in one another. i just know this is going to make me cry Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    March 10, 2021: A contemporary queer coming-of-age story with a twist of magic. Can September be here sooner?

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Mimi Koehler Achingly relatable and insightful to a fault, The Insiders is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. With its revelatory depiction of bullying and transcending friendships, Oshiro’s magical middle-grade debut promises to become a staple in the beloved genre. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Mimi Koehler Achingly relatable and insightful to a fault, The Insiders is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. With its revelatory depiction of bullying and transcending friendships, Oshiro’s magical middle-grade debut promises to become a staple in the beloved genre. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vee_Bookish

    -September most anticipated releases -

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    If I could get a copy of this book for every one of my middle schoolers that have come out to me, or dropped major hints, or who I've suspected may need it, I would. There's a part of me that knows adults may think of this book a little too heavy-handed, a little too afterschool special, but I work with kids every day like the ones in the book. I know for a fact the way bullying goes unaddressed, or kids' worries go unvoiced or otherwise unheard by adults like Ms. Heath. I know for a fact from m If I could get a copy of this book for every one of my middle schoolers that have come out to me, or dropped major hints, or who I've suspected may need it, I would. There's a part of me that knows adults may think of this book a little too heavy-handed, a little too afterschool special, but I work with kids every day like the ones in the book. I know for a fact the way bullying goes unaddressed, or kids' worries go unvoiced or otherwise unheard by adults like Ms. Heath. I know for a fact from my own experience years ago what it was like to feel alone as a sole queer kid -- having friendly acquaintances who I wasn't sure I could trust with the full truth of who I was, dreaming of close, safe friendships, and a magical place to escape to. I loved this book and I think my students will adore it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    caro(lee)na

    SUCH A WONDERFUL BOOK. i absolutely adored it. it reminded me of why i love reading middle grade. 3 outsiders from different parts of the country are brought together by a magical room that appears to them in times of need. and there is so much representation!!! the main character is gay and mexican, there’s biracial rep, non-binary rep and lesbian rep. i really loved it and i’m definitely preordering it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Héctor Muñoz and his family move from San Francisco to Orangevale, California so his mother can take a high powered teaching job and the family can be closer to Abuela Sonia. He misses his good friends, and has a rocky start to the school year, where the teachers are more concerned about "proper" behavior than in making sure students are kind to each other. Ms. Heath goes as far as telling Héctor that he is NOT being bullied by Mike, because Mike is a good student E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Héctor Muñoz and his family move from San Francisco to Orangevale, California so his mother can take a high powered teaching job and the family can be closer to Abuela Sonia. He misses his good friends, and has a rocky start to the school year, where the teachers are more concerned about "proper" behavior than in making sure students are kind to each other. Ms. Heath goes as far as telling Héctor that he is NOT being bullied by Mike, because Mike is a good student. Mike, as well as his minions, are absolutely bullying Héctor in the worst kind of ways-- calling him "gay" as an insult even though he has made it clear that he IS gay, causing physical harm, and hunting him down every single day on his way into the building. Desperate for relief, Héctor ducks into a janitors closet for a moment of peace. To his surprise, the closet seems to have magical properties, and serves as a portal to other students who are struggling in other parts of the country. Juliana is in Charleston, South Carolina, and her Dad is Chinese and her mother is black. She's struggling because her school is demolishing the library. Sal, whose dad is Filipino and whose mom is white, struggles to get fellow students in their school in Phoenix understand that they are nonbinary. The janitor's closet has different appearances at their school, but serves as a Harry Potter-esque room of requirement, complete with beds and bean bag chairs, food, and other supplies. Best of all, when the kids go into the room, no time passes in the real world, so they aren't late for classes after catching a nap, getting a snack, and generally taking a break from the problems that they face. Eventually, they are able to travel into each other's worlds to help with problems, and having friends, even if they are far away, helps them all deal with middle school. Strengths: This was a nice twist on some classic fantasy features, like portals to other worlds or magical rooms. Héctor's family is very supportive of him, and this is not a coming out story, although Héctor's life is certainly impacted by his identity. It's good that he finds a group of friends at his real school, even if they aren't exactly the friends he wants, and it's very realistic that the school wouldn't have a theater program. The fantasy world is well developed, although the room is so cool that I wouldn't have minded a lot more details. Weaknesses: There were some aspects of how schools work that seemed unlikely-- all of the closets at my school are locked, and I am not sure that putting a library into an abandoned classroom would work, and I can't see parts of the building being torn down. Younger readers won't mind, but this did make me wonder if schools where Mx. Oshiro are operate in very different ways. What I really think: This is one of the few books I've seen with LGBTQIA+ characters involved in a fantasy story line. I'm sure we'll be seeing more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Mark Oshiro's The Insiders is an absolute delight of a book, showing the ways (some magical, some quite ordinary) that a group of middle school "misfits" use to create a safer, more respectful world for themselves. The central character, Héctor Muñoz, is gay, a theatre person, a flashy dresser, and has a gift for making people laugh. His family—Mami, Papi, and Abuela—support him exactly as he is. Unfortunately, the family has just moved from San Francisco to a much more conservative community, an Mark Oshiro's The Insiders is an absolute delight of a book, showing the ways (some magical, some quite ordinary) that a group of middle school "misfits" use to create a safer, more respectful world for themselves. The central character, Héctor Muñoz, is gay, a theatre person, a flashy dresser, and has a gift for making people laugh. His family—Mami, Papi, and Abuela—support him exactly as he is. Unfortunately, the family has just moved from San Francisco to a much more conservative community, and Héctor suddently finds support outside his family very hard to come by. He finds a group to eat lunch with, but they've all been so bullied that they aren't able to stand up for one another. He also finds another pair of friends via a Janitor's closet that appears magically when he's most desperate and that is also a refuge for two other unhappy students, one from South Carolina, the other from Arizona. This is one of those young adult titles that makes excellent reading for adults as well young adults. You don't have to be any particular age to appreciate and learn from the struggles of Héctor and his friends—and reading this book will probably give you ideas about how to be a better ally to marginalized individuals in your own life. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss; the opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Yapha

    Héctor knew that his new middle school in the small town of Orangevale was going to be different than his old one in San Francisco, but he wasn't prepared for just how different. As he struggles to make friends, he draws the attention of the school bully. The daily tormenting starts to break him down, and Héctor finds himself hiding in the janitor's closet. (And yes, he acknowledges the irony of the gay kid hiding in the closet.) But this is no ordinary closet. It starts to transform, giving him Héctor knew that his new middle school in the small town of Orangevale was going to be different than his old one in San Francisco, but he wasn't prepared for just how different. As he struggles to make friends, he draws the attention of the school bully. The daily tormenting starts to break him down, and Héctor finds himself hiding in the janitor's closet. (And yes, he acknowledges the irony of the gay kid hiding in the closet.) But this is no ordinary closet. It starts to transform, giving him exactly what he needs, when he needs it. And then another surprise -- another student shows up in The Room. And she doesn't go to his school. She's not even in California! As they, and the third student who joins them, work on figuring out what is going on, they end up helping each other work out a variety of problems. This is a great book about friendship, fitting in, and being true to yourself. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up. eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

  11. 5 out of 5

    JoyAnn

    As a GSA sponsor in a middle school, I REALLY appreciate that this book exists. As a librarian and teacher, I appreciate the diversity and empathy. As a reader, I appreciate the authenticity and range of characters. I actually like the fact that we never find out why Mike is a bully. He’s not the focus nor who the reader should sympathize with. I also like that each of them need others to help and stand up with them. That’s an important message. I love Hector’s grandmother. My only criticism is As a GSA sponsor in a middle school, I REALLY appreciate that this book exists. As a librarian and teacher, I appreciate the diversity and empathy. As a reader, I appreciate the authenticity and range of characters. I actually like the fact that we never find out why Mike is a bully. He’s not the focus nor who the reader should sympathize with. I also like that each of them need others to help and stand up with them. That’s an important message. I love Hector’s grandmother. My only criticism is that it felt like the story could’ve been a bit shorter than it was.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Preethi

    Oh, this was absolutely beautiful. I loved how unapologetically queer it was and how the experience of being queer differs from person to person. One of my favorite aspects of this was how supportive all the parents/grandparents are in this book. Their support made me feel so hopeful. This will definitely become a comfort read for me, and I cannot wait to read it again. If this is the kind of writing we are going to get for the Nico/Will book with Rick Riordan, it will be simply perfect.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brian Paquin

    This book broke my heart and then filled me with hope! I loved the LGBTQ+ representation Mark Oshiro included in his writing. Also, I thought it was wonderful to see the characters think for themselves and solve their own problems before really getting help from the adults. The parents especially are very supportive, but not "this is what you have to do to solve this" kind of people. They want to step in, but seem to pay attention enough. Hector's Abuela Sonia is seriously my favorite!! This book broke my heart and then filled me with hope! I loved the LGBTQ+ representation Mark Oshiro included in his writing. Also, I thought it was wonderful to see the characters think for themselves and solve their own problems before really getting help from the adults. The parents especially are very supportive, but not "this is what you have to do to solve this" kind of people. They want to step in, but seem to pay attention enough. Hector's Abuela Sonia is seriously my favorite!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    NICOLA

    SO SO SO GOOD!!!!! It literally made me want to scream (in a good way)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    F R I E N D S H I P Seriously, this book is so delightful. I might have cried for a lot of it, but that's just from the pure cinnamon roll-ness of everything. I've barely read anything through this pandemic, but I fairly devoured this book; it's so good! F R I E N D S H I P Seriously, this book is so delightful. I might have cried for a lot of it, but that's just from the pure cinnamon roll-ness of everything. I've barely read anything through this pandemic, but I fairly devoured this book; it's so good!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pine Reads Review

    “The hallway was lined with doors on either side, all of them the same. Except one.” Twelve-year-old Héctor Muñoz’s whole world is turned upside down by his family’s move from San Francisco to the small town of Orangevale, California. Back home in San Francisco, Héctor didn’t have to worry about fitting in or being bullied just because he was gay. But things are very, very different in Orangevale. When he’s singled out by the school bully, Héctor can’t shake just how alone he feels. All Héctor wa “The hallway was lined with doors on either side, all of them the same. Except one.” Twelve-year-old Héctor Muñoz’s whole world is turned upside down by his family’s move from San Francisco to the small town of Orangevale, California. Back home in San Francisco, Héctor didn’t have to worry about fitting in or being bullied just because he was gay. But things are very, very different in Orangevale. When he’s singled out by the school bully, Héctor can’t shake just how alone he feels. All Héctor wants to do is get away, so he finds solace inside the janitor’s closet. But one day, Héctor enters the closet to hide from his bullies, and instead finds a place—and people—that shouldn’t be there. With a magical room and two new friends from different states, Héctor slowly realizes that he’s not as alone as he thought he was. Mark Oshiro’s middle-grade debut is all at once hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. Héctor is such a richly complex character. He is chock-full of personality, humor, and wit, but he also feels his emotions deeply and shows that even the most confident of people can be weighed down by their struggles. Héctor’s growth over the course of the novel is a rocky road, but I was rooting for him through it all. I also adored the two friends Héctor makes in the magical janitor’s closet. Both kids face their own struggles, but they are always there for Héctor when he needs them, just like he is for them. The support system the three of them create with each other is beautiful to witness. Filled to the brim with LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC representation, this book opens up many necessary conversations about identity and the importance of being proudly—and unapologetically—yourself. The Insiders is filled with heart and hope and is a book I think everyone should read. It’s definitely one I will never forget. Content Warnings: Bullying, homophobia, mentions of transphobia, racism, hospitals, injuries, mentions of drunk driving & death, anxiety attacks & overstimulation (Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.) Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @pinereadsreview and check out our website at www.pinereadsreview.com for reviews, author interviews, blogs, podcast episodes, and more!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alondra Lopez

    Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC of this book! Going into this book, I was a bit biased, as Mark Oshiro’s book “Anger is a Gift” was so strong and impactful, and I was excited to read “The Insiders. Overall, “The Insiders” is a solid middle grade/children’s book about belonging, change, and finding a safe/brave space in and outside of school. The book centers on Hector Munoz (he/him). Hector decides to wear glitter on his first day at his new school to let people know what they are in for, as he Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC of this book! Going into this book, I was a bit biased, as Mark Oshiro’s book “Anger is a Gift” was so strong and impactful, and I was excited to read “The Insiders. Overall, “The Insiders” is a solid middle grade/children’s book about belonging, change, and finding a safe/brave space in and outside of school. The book centers on Hector Munoz (he/him). Hector decides to wear glitter on his first day at his new school to let people know what they are in for, as he is extremely proud of his drama background, and being gay. Once he gets to school he sits at the table with the Misfits, a group of students who don’t quite fit into any other mold, and who have all been bullied. Hector is targeted by the school bully, and while at first he accepts this as part of being new, the trauma begins to impact him, and he feels unsafe at school. During one particularly bad day, a door appears, leading to a Room containing his favorite beverage (Abuela’s horchata) and a place to hide. Strangely enough, the Room has no care for time zones or time itself, and one day Hector comes across Juliana (she/her), who lives in Charleston, SC, and finds that she is also using the room as a safe space. The bullying at Hector’s school intensifies, and Hector begins to spend more and more time in the Room. One day, after having pudding thrown at him, Hector enters the Room and finds that it has expanded. AND there is now a third person, Sal (they/them) from Phoenix, AZ. The three grow a strong friendship full of real struggles, but also real progress, which will have the reader hooked. Overall, I would recommend this book to middle school and (younger) high school audiences, and would keep it in the classroom. I think for the right student, this book could be highly relatable and support them in reflecting on their place in the world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    What an amazing read! I read Mark Oshiro's The Insiders in one sitting and immediately ordered a copy for my middle school classroom library. I already know my GSA students would love this book, but I honestly feel like any kid who feels marginalized in any way due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. would connect to the characters and this story. As a teacher, I know how bullying can be unaddressed/ignored and even how some educators/administrators are biased in who they side with What an amazing read! I read Mark Oshiro's The Insiders in one sitting and immediately ordered a copy for my middle school classroom library. I already know my GSA students would love this book, but I honestly feel like any kid who feels marginalized in any way due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. would connect to the characters and this story. As a teacher, I know how bullying can be unaddressed/ignored and even how some educators/administrators are biased in who they side with. Unfortunately, I know that microaggressions and macroaggressions are daily occurrences for some people. Héctor Muñoz moves from San Francisco (a much more diverse and accepting place) to Orangevale. As a queer Latinx student, he is immediately singled out by the bullies at his new school because he's different. His new status is a Misfit and is truly miserable at his school when the bullies literally chase him. A janitor closet at school turns out to be a magical room (think Room of Requirement but not created by a multimillionaire transphobe) becomes a literal safe space for Héctor... and as it turns out, two other middle school students (from other states!) who also need a safe refuge. I know some people might find it hard to believe some of this is unrealistic or that the families in this story are too accepting, but sometimes kids NEED books where their parents are okay with them being who they are even if some people in the world are not. (Seriously, I would have loved to seen such positive and supportive parents in a middle-grade book when I was young.) It's rare to find a middle-grade book that features diverse characters with middle school protagonists who sound authentically like kids. Thanks goes out to NetGalley for sending me an ARC.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    I needed a little YA tap out and what a fun romp "The Insiders" turned out to be! At first I was hesitant because the premise is pretty directly ripped from Harry Potter's Room of Requirement (a mysterious room in school that expands/contracts to magically caters to the needs of the students that find it. COME ON!). With time it became a sweet story of tackling bullies, accepting yourself, and navigating school social circles. I was pleasantly surprised at how emotionally-invested I became in the I needed a little YA tap out and what a fun romp "The Insiders" turned out to be! At first I was hesitant because the premise is pretty directly ripped from Harry Potter's Room of Requirement (a mysterious room in school that expands/contracts to magically caters to the needs of the students that find it. COME ON!). With time it became a sweet story of tackling bullies, accepting yourself, and navigating school social circles. I was pleasantly surprised at how emotionally-invested I became in the world of Hector, Juliana and Sal. As an adult with no kids, I find it fascinating to get these stolen glimpses into the lives of GenZ and Middle Schoolers as I age further away. Some things stay the same, but so much about their lives has changed: the radical acceptance of gender and sexual fluidity, the racial diversity, the insanely keener emotional intelligence and self-advocacy...all of it is incredibly impressive. All in all, it was corny and saccharine but I like it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    "Héctor Muñoz glittered. Literally." Héctor just moved from San Francisco to Orangevale. He's dressed in his best outfit and ready to shine. Unfortunately, he is almost immediately targeted by Mike and his Minions. As this bullying persists, Héctor's mornings begin with a mad dash to get away from his bullies, and he is led to the one place he never expected to have to return to, the closet. At first, Héctor is greeted by a lone spider that he names King Ferdinand. As Héctor's visits to the clos "Héctor Muñoz glittered. Literally." Héctor just moved from San Francisco to Orangevale. He's dressed in his best outfit and ready to shine. Unfortunately, he is almost immediately targeted by Mike and his Minions. As this bullying persists, Héctor's mornings begin with a mad dash to get away from his bullies, and he is led to the one place he never expected to have to return to, the closet. At first, Héctor is greeted by a lone spider that he names King Ferdinand. As Héctor's visits to the closet become more frequent, he begins to notice that the Janitor's closet isn't always in the same location. Then, one day, the interior of the closet is completely different; Héctor is exhausted and the Room provides him with a comfortable bed. Then despite sleeping for while, he was right on time for school. As the Room continues to meet his needs, he eventually discovers Sal and Juliana who also have access to the Room...from their schools in Arizona and South Carolina! This fantastic middle grade read speaks to the power of finding friends who will help you fight for things that matter. It also highlights that no matter what others think, you should always remain true to who you are. This excellent Middle Grade novel comes out September 21...mark your calendars now!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mikayla Tewksbury

    THIS BOOK Y'ALL. DANG. I am up in my FEELINGS. This book has incredible diversity and LGBTQ+ rep, and a cast of kids who truly, mostly are able to handle things on their own proving how awesome kids can be. This book tells the tale of a queer boy who, while fleeing some cruel kids at his school, uncovers a closet that acts as a gateway to a realm of exactly what he needs at exactly the right time. Also in this closet are two other kids, facing similar hardships at their own schools, and serve as THIS BOOK Y'ALL. DANG. I am up in my FEELINGS. This book has incredible diversity and LGBTQ+ rep, and a cast of kids who truly, mostly are able to handle things on their own proving how awesome kids can be. This book tells the tale of a queer boy who, while fleeing some cruel kids at his school, uncovers a closet that acts as a gateway to a realm of exactly what he needs at exactly the right time. Also in this closet are two other kids, facing similar hardships at their own schools, and serve as companions and friends that push each other and lift each other up. I still have so many thoughts and feelings but all of them can be summarized by: Mark Oshiro is a beautiful wonderful soul and their books always send me right to tears. This is a MUST READ.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was a sweet book that didn’t quite work. Three young people from different middle schools in different parts of the country find a mysterious room that appears when they need to escape. The three - a gay boy, a lesbian girls, and a non-binary teen - meet in the room, become friends, and help one another solve their problems. The characters were well drawn, particularly Hector and his family, but I found it a bit too rosy in its depiction of the three kids’ parents. All were uniformly suppor This was a sweet book that didn’t quite work. Three young people from different middle schools in different parts of the country find a mysterious room that appears when they need to escape. The three - a gay boy, a lesbian girls, and a non-binary teen - meet in the room, become friends, and help one another solve their problems. The characters were well drawn, particularly Hector and his family, but I found it a bit too rosy in its depiction of the three kids’ parents. All were uniformly supportive of the kids’ sexuality, which is spectacular, but seemed a little unrealistic. Other adults were sometimes depicted as unsupportive and were dealt with pretty well, but I thought it left out kids who might not have unconditional support at home.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ava Budavari

    This book is a love letter to all of the queer kids, and all of the kids of color who were ever mistreated or excluded. Oshiro excellently captures the racism and homophobia that queer and BIPOC kids experience on a daily basis, not just from other kids but from teachers as well. I have never wanted a story to be real more in my life. The idea of being able to escape somewhere during the school day when it becomes emotionally unsafe is so beautiful and I wish it was something that all kids could This book is a love letter to all of the queer kids, and all of the kids of color who were ever mistreated or excluded. Oshiro excellently captures the racism and homophobia that queer and BIPOC kids experience on a daily basis, not just from other kids but from teachers as well. I have never wanted a story to be real more in my life. The idea of being able to escape somewhere during the school day when it becomes emotionally unsafe is so beautiful and I wish it was something that all kids could do. It felt so real, and I wish I could give copies of this book to every kid who needs it and to every adult whose inner child needs it. What a beautiful middle grade story about self love, friendship, and being brave enough to be who you are.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patti Sabik

    Wonderful concept story where a safe place is provided in the form of a mysterious room for three middle schoolers who feel like outsiders. These three kids connect across states in a magically changing room that provides a refuge from bullies and pressure. The trio help each other and grow individually. Very strong characters and families, but the text gets therapy sounding at times and is just a bit too long. We as readers don’t get involved with the room until nearly half way through the book Wonderful concept story where a safe place is provided in the form of a mysterious room for three middle schoolers who feel like outsiders. These three kids connect across states in a magically changing room that provides a refuge from bullies and pressure. The trio help each other and grow individually. Very strong characters and families, but the text gets therapy sounding at times and is just a bit too long. We as readers don’t get involved with the room until nearly half way through the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    A well-written story covering moving to a new place, bullying, homophobia, and being yourself. I really appreciated all the supportive families and the realistic portrayal of fading long-distance friendships, and Héctor certainly comes off as individual. However, much of the story ended up feeling repetitive, the fantasy element didn't necessarily seem to be used to best advantage, and the side characters didn't feel particularly fleshed out. A thematically strong offering but perhaps not as wel A well-written story covering moving to a new place, bullying, homophobia, and being yourself. I really appreciated all the supportive families and the realistic portrayal of fading long-distance friendships, and Héctor certainly comes off as individual. However, much of the story ended up feeling repetitive, the fantasy element didn't necessarily seem to be used to best advantage, and the side characters didn't feel particularly fleshed out. A thematically strong offering but perhaps not as well developed as it could have been. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alyson L

    This is such a heart-felt book. It makes you want to cry and laugh and feel all the emotions the characters feel. You become friends with Oshiro's characters along every step of the way. It's such an amazing book, added with a sprinkle of magic and a dash of queer. A big dash of queer. I highly recommend you read it if you're queer. Or if you're not queer, read it too! It's a book for everyone, regardless of gender, status, age, sexual orientation. 10/10 recommend. I loved every page of it. This is such a heart-felt book. It makes you want to cry and laugh and feel all the emotions the characters feel. You become friends with Oshiro's characters along every step of the way. It's such an amazing book, added with a sprinkle of magic and a dash of queer. A big dash of queer. I highly recommend you read it if you're queer. Or if you're not queer, read it too! It's a book for everyone, regardless of gender, status, age, sexual orientation. 10/10 recommend. I loved every page of it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A wonderful book for people of all ages. It’s both heartwarming at times and heartbreaking at other times. While there is a magical part to this story, the situations are all too real and feature a diverse and interesting cast of characters. This is an excellent book for parents and kids to read together and talk about it. There are so many good topics to discuss as a family. It’s a story that I wish I had been able to read as a kid. Thank you Mark Oshiro for writing this amazing tale!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There is fantastic representation of both BIPOC and LGBTQ individuals. While the kids handle things on their own for the most part, the adults in their lives are supportive and awesome. I wish that this book had existed for me when I was a kid! Read in prepub through NetGalley.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Miriasha

    Middle school can be hard, especially for marginalized kids - kids of color, queer and trans kids, kids for whom being themselves means standing out in a way that's not always safe. Mark Oshiro's middle grade debut gives these kids the chance to fight back with the help of a magical room (think Room of Requirement) that brings them exactly what they need - each other. Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC! Middle school can be hard, especially for marginalized kids - kids of color, queer and trans kids, kids for whom being themselves means standing out in a way that's not always safe. Mark Oshiro's middle grade debut gives these kids the chance to fight back with the help of a magical room (think Room of Requirement) that brings them exactly what they need - each other. Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vickie

    An enjoyable read, perfect for middle school children. The novel touches on the anxiety of starting at a new school and trying to fit in, while still also trying to be true to yourself. The characters are relatable and age appropriate.

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