Chirp is an age appropriate (10-14) book dealing with some heavy subjects. But overall, they are presented respectfully and are accessible to all readers. There were a few bumps in the plot for me, but I felt it was a decent story and for certain the style that you have come to expect from the author.
Kate Messner writes about Mia, a young girl moving back to Vermont after several years living in Boston. Her parents and she have come back to help her grandmother with the family farm. Only this is not your typical farm. It is a cricket farm. And Mia’s parents think it is time for the grandmother to sell, especially after her recent stroke. But Mia is devastated to think anything is wrong with her beloved grandmother, but when odd coincidences start happening, Grandma thinks sabotage. Has she lost her mind or is there something afoot? Mia and her new friends start to sleuth about to find out who is responsible. The clues are many and confusing. Can Mia help her grandmother before it is too late?
While this is all happening, Mia is trying to find the old girl from a favorite photograph of her and an old friend. The girl who was strong and free. The one before the accident. The one before the reason why she had the accident in the first place. Mia wants to find herself again.
How Messner presents the issues females can deal with in society (especially in more male dominated areas) could be a little heavy handed at times. (Almost every female has a story and while causally introduced, the mayor is female). While it is an important lesson to have out there, as is the lesson of body autonomy, Messner could get a little preachy at times. What I found the most interesting is how Messner brings into play the business aspect of the story. I had not seen this before in a story (or at least not so easily understandable) and the freshness was refreshing She shows how to make business plans, how to market and all the little details that are ever so important. She also has some of Mia’s summer camp friends partaking in Mia’s project by lending expertise (building a robot to help harvest crickets and serving as taste testers) and so forth. Here, Messner’s “girls in science” is not as forced and flows more naturally. Also, the information about crickets as food was fascinating. I knew that people ate crickets, but figured it was a gimmick. Just something funny to say, “Hey I took the Chirp Challenge” (see story for reference). I had no idea of nutritional value or the fact if you are allergic to shellfish you should not try crickets. Nor did I really realize how you farm them.
Perhaps some of the best parts deal with the puns of the companies on Church Street of Burlington, Vermont. Tom and Harry’s ice cream sounded terrible familiar and the mere fact that I know that Burlington is a real city is cool. The kid in me is loving this. The kid in me knows I would have devoured this book. The adult me is pretty sure that the kid readers will enjoy reading it, too. If I have one major complaint, Chirp does not lend itself to not falling into the “girl book category.” It is a strong “girl story.” But since one story line deals with one male friend harassing a female friend, boys should read this, too. But the “Nancy Drew” and “Girl Power” aspects could turn them off.