Need a Hunger Games alternative for your tweens to read? Find an unlikely heroine in The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee book for kids: review on Cool Mom Picks

The lead character in Barry Jonsberg’s excellent new book for tweens, The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee, isn’t as strong as Katniss in The Hunger Games or as fearless as Divergent’s Tris, but Candice Phee is still my new favorite literary heroine. And the quest she goes on to save her family is as noble and enjoyable to read as those more action-packed books that have captured so many girls’ imaginations lately.

If your tweens aren’t quite ready for the intensity of those other books, but are looking for something new to read before bed, that will make them scream “just one more chapter, Mom?” from their rooms, then this is definitely a contender.

Twelve-years-old, Candice has more than her fair share of quirks: She is truthful to a sometimes painful fault, reads the dictionary for pleasure, gets seasick just walking towards a boat, counts a fish as one of her closest companions, and often has to write down her conversations rather than speak them. Her one friend thinks he’s from another dimension

and is working hard on getting back to it, and even her pen pal ignores her, which doesn’t stop her from cheerfully writing unanswered letter after letter.

Oh, but did I say that she is delightful? Her honesty is laugh-out-loud hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, which is what I think will appeal to lots of girls looking for a new literary lead to admire. Candice has insight into other people that seems well beyond her years, and is able to protect her from the class bully’s taunts and from her family’s complete breakdown after the unexpected death of her baby sister. (So yes, there’s some dark stuff in here.)

In fact, the slings and arrows of life seem to bounce right off of her as she focuses on her one goal: To bring her parents back from the brink and restore some happiness into her home life.

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee sets out to right Candice’s world in 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet to fulfill a class assignment that Candice takes to the extreme. I’d say this is probably best for kids in middle school and up who will appreciate the smart and often witty prose and the somewhat mature subject matter.

As a fan of YA fiction myself, I liked it so much I wish there were more letters in our alphabet so that our visit with Candice wouldn’t end so soon.

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg is available at our affiliate Amazon or from your local indie bookseller. For our Aussie friends, this title was released last year in Australia under the title My Life as an Alphabet.

Visit our archives for more books for kids of all ages.

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