Mari in the Margins (Book Review)

Written by Michelle Watson

May 31, 2024

You’ll love it if
you’re charmed by the little-big dramas of childhood

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Mari in the Margins

By Rebecca J. Gomez

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

How can you stand out when you’re lost in a sea of siblings?

I adored this novel in verse. Mari reminds me a lot of myself—introverted, creative, wondering how she fits in. Mari is the middle child in a family of nine kids. Her busy family, chaotic home life, and her clingy little sister, whom Mari is always stuck babysitting, often push her to her limit, requiring her to hide in the closet or lock herself in the bathroom for some peace and quiet.

Mari feels like she’s a side note in her family, often forgotten while louder voices get the most attention. But she’s not defined by resentment—she loves her family and is devoted to them, even though she finds them exhausting. She’s just wondering how she fits in as an individual in her own right (beyond her perpetual role as babysitter to her younger siblings). What in this world is JUST Mari’s? Who is she?

This a sweet, understated story that explores universal emotions that all kids can relate to. Do my parents really love me? What am I good at? Is she still my friend? Why am I so upset? I love books that are content to portray the ordinary highs and lows of everyday life.

I love Mari’s mixed cultural experience, which adds richness to her life. I love how the book throws all kinds of poetry into the mix, as Mari’s teacher assigns certain forms, we see Mari’s attempts at haiku, limerick, acrostic, and free verse. This book would make a fantastic addition to a homeschool poetry unit, because, as Mari learns to master some of these forms, she remains supremely focused on expressing herself and pouring her heart into her writing. The tension between self-expression and artistic constraint is where the magic happens for her.

Also, the doodles are such a fun addition! The book is beautifully laid out visually.

Overall, I loved this! I’d recommend it to any middle-grader, and I loved it as an adult, too.

4.8

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