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Just Like Me

Review

Just Like Me

Julia does not like using chopsticks, she does not want to learn how to speak Chinese and she definitely does not want to spend a week at Camp Little Big Woods with Avery and Becca, her “Chinese sisters.”

But most of all, Julia does not want to talk about being adopted from China. Even though Avery and Becca were also adopted from the same orphanage at the same time as her, Julia wants nothing to do with her Chinese heritage.

JUST LIKE ME by Nancy J. Cavanaugh is told through Julia’s perspective as she navigates fighting with her cabin mates while trying to sort out her true feelings about being adopted --- feelings that, until now, she has tried her hardest to suppress.

The Camp Little Big Woods competition brings out both the best and worst of Julia and her five other cabin mates as they discover what it takes for them to overcome their differences and work as a team.

"Cavanaugh...skillfully incorporates the larger issues of adoption and inadvertent racism into a story about overcoming differences."

While learning to be honest with herself, Julia discovers that she’s not the only one with vulnerabilities. Avery and Becca --- and even mean girls Vanessa and Meredith --- are trying to figure out who they are, too. Each girl copes with their insecurities in their own way: Vanessa bullies, Meredith follows, Becca yells, Avery is a know-it-all, Gina can’t take anything seriously and Julia (although she tries to not get involved) often is the catalyst for a major cabin argument. Once the girls learn to accept the truth about themselves, they’re able to work together.

This sweet and touching coming-of-age story will appeal to a range of middle grade readers. Cavanaugh creates a cast of diverse and complex girls who all just want to belong. In JUST LIKE ME, Cavanaugh (an adoptive mother herself) skillfully incorporates the larger issues of adoption and inadvertent racism into a story about overcoming differences. JUST LIKE ME teaches young readers that sometimes difference can end up connecting people in unexpected ways.

The story can be bland at times, the middle drags and becomes a bit moralistic, as the six girls know they need to change but don’t have the proper tools just yet to do so. However, the preachy overtone pays off in the end. Cavanaugh wraps up the story with the tender recognition that some friendships are worth fighting for, as long as you always remember the common thread that binds you together.

Reviewed by Margret Wiggins on April 19, 2016

Just Like Me
by Nancy Cavanaugh