If Ellie Engle had a superpower, it would be invisibility. Ellie likes things simple, normal. Especially after her dad left. Even more after her Poppy died. Normal means spending time at her best friend Abby’s busy, happy house. It means feeding Burt the Betta fish. It means reading comics and waiting for Abby’s gymnastics practice to end. But on the first day of seventh grade, an earthquake does more than shake Ellie’s bed: she wakes up with real superpowers. And just like that, her almost-superpower of invisibility is replaced with the real superpowers of super hearing and bringing things back from the dead.
That is not simple and it’s definitely not normal.
Add in a mean girl, friendship growing pains, Ellie realizing her feelings for Abby are more than friendship type feelings, and a growing stack of final notice bill envelopes addressed to her mom, and Ellie definitely would have had enough going on before the whole superhero thing.
What’s a super girl to do?
In her middle grade debut, author Leah Johnson gives us the superhero we’ve been waiting for. Not because she’ll save the world, or even the seventh grade. She’s the superhero teaching us how to save ourselves.
“…if I leave how I feel about myself up to other people, I’m always gonna feel horrible.”Ellie Engle Saves Herself
Ellie Engle is the kind of book that makes you laugh out loud on one page and gives you something to ponder on the next. Ellie is a delightful character, and one young readers can relate to. Even without her superpowers, Ellie has to learn how to share her friend, how to stand up for herself, and how to open herself up to new possibilities. The supporting characters are just as well developed: flawed, imperfect, and realistic.
This novel has a lot of great messages and themes, but all are subtle and rooted deeply in the plot. The characters are relatable, flawed, and their choices — even the wrong ones– are understandable.
Ellie has discovered her feelings for Abby are more than friendship, but she isn’t ready to tell her yet. When everyone in school is swooning over one boy, Ellie isn’t. And it almost gets her outed. Instead, she’s outed in a different way. A viral way. A superpowers way. Ellie’s burgeoning feelings are handled delicately, in a way that’s accessible and understandable for young readers. And just like as in real life, that is just one part of who Ellie is. I loved that Ellie wasn’t a walking one-dimensional issue character– she was a three dimensional character balancing a lot of relatable (BFF wanting to be with the popular crew) and fantastical (hello, superpowers!) new aspects of life.
This book has joy, friendship, a bit of heartbreak, the ups and downs of superpowers, and plenty of hope. It’s a fun read with deeper messages. The fast-paced plot, incredible character development, and unique voice make this a fast but meaningful read.
Ellie Engle Saves Herself is available now. Thank you to the author, Disney Hyperion, and NetGalley for an advanced copy such that I could share my honest opinion.
You can purchase Ellie Engle Saves Herself from Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.