Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Book Review: Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman

Pages: 288
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books by Author: If I Stay,
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It’s the summer of 1987, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals on the boardwalk. But Danny wants to be with his own friends, and Bug’s mom is too busy, so Bug is stuck with their neighbor Philip’s nephew, Frankie.  Bug’s not too excited about hanging out with a kid she’s never met, but they soon find some common ground. And as the summer unfolds, they find themselves learning some important lessons about each other, and the world.  Like what it means to be your true self and how to be a good ally for others. That family can be the people you’re related to, but also the people you choose to have around you. And that even though life isn’t always fair, we can all do our part to make it more just.




Bug is a tween growing up in the late 1980s. It's the summer and for Bug, the summer has always been about the beach that is until plans change this year. Normally her brother, Danny, watches her and they go to Venice Beach together, but this summer is different.  Danny is now a teenager and doesn't want to hangout with his little sister day in and day out.  Naturally, he would rather hangout with his friends. This obviously crushes Bug, because not only does she look forward to summer days at the beach, she is also disappointed that her brother has pushed her aside.  Bug's mother has good news though.  Her best friend who lives upstairs has his nephew, Frankie, visiting for the summer and he is the same age as Bug.  At first, things are awkward between Bug and Frankie, but eventually they hit it off.  Together they hope to solve the crime of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been targeting their area.  However, things quickly go from a more relaxed "investigation" to a more serious once when Phillip, Frankie's uncle, is attacked.  Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman is a brilliant coming-of-age story about two friends with the whole summer ahead of them, but it is actually a lot more than your usual summer reader. Readers will appreciate the subtle messages throughout and Forman's expert way of dealing with difficult, yet timely issues.  Frankie & Bug is such a memorable read.

I really enjoyed Bug from the beginning in Frankie & Bug. Forman has a way of developing characters that readers can connect with and root for. I truly cared for her and was so thankful when she met Frankie as Bug really needs a good friend.  I really loved their friendship and how it evolved.  At first, they are both into discovering who the Midnight Marauder is, but then that all changes when Phillip is attacked. As they look into what exactly happened to Phillip, they learn the truth surrounding many family secrets and just how unfair life can be at times.

Forman keeps things light enough throughout Frankie & Bug that the story never feels too heavy, but she somehow still addresses such important issues, such as racism, LGTBQ issues, skinheads, and common prejudices.  Without giving too much away, Frankie is a trans youth and Forman dives into this topic expertly and carefully.  I think Frankie's story can be appreciated by so many middle grade readers and some may relate to it.  Bug is also a female of mixed race and Forman highlights how physical appearances can sometimes play into prejudices as her brother Daniel looks more like their father from El Savador and Bug looks more like her white mother.  There are many heavy topics explored, but Forman covers it all in such a way that it's part of the story and not preachy. 

Simply put, Forman is an expert writer and one of my favorites. Her writing is so accessible and I think this middle grade debut is an important one and I'd love to see in every middle grade school library.  

So, are you a fan of Gayle Forman? Is Frankie & Bug on your TBR list? Do you enjoy middle grade fiction? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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