To get a fresh start after his parents’ separation, Zachary Beatrice and his father have just moved to small town Falls, Connecticut. There, he meets Rachel Spinelli, who’s not afraid to haul back and FACEPUNCH! whoever rubs her the wrong way. While Zachary tries to adjust to life after his mother’s absence, he finds himself becoming good friends with Rachel’s brother and maybe even seeing a little more in Rachel than most people do. The story centers around one particular summer which involves blooming friendships, hours of community service, trumpet playing, one very feisty squirrel and, of course, FACEPUNCHES!
Zachary Beatrice is an average 14-year-old kid. He’s dealing with the fallout of his parents’ divorce and adjusting to life in a new town, and he’s doing it remarkably well. Rachel Spinelli is the town toughie with some serious anger issues. She’s not a bully, she’s just overprotective. She’ll fight tooth and nail to protect her brother, Teddy, who (according to Rachel) “needs protecting.” There are also some very amusing townspeople including Zachary’s father, Officer Beatrice, a very pregnant Mrs. Yee, and Mr. and Mrs. Koza who own the local ice cream shop (along with their taxidermified dog Coco, who acts mostly as a doorstop but gets more attention than any taxidermied animal should). They all function together to make up a wacky (but endearing) cast of characters.
I won’t lie… I broke the cardinal rule of book selection and judged Rachel Spinelli by the cover. Er, well, actually the title. Because… well, my God. How can you NOT want to pick up a book called Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face? That being said, it’s not at all what I was expecting. And I don’t mean that in the most positive way. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book. Despite some of the silliness that takes place, Rachel Spinelli tackled a lot of tough issues. Parental separation/divorce and the response and fallout that follows, the meaning of a true friendship, and a character with an implied mild mental impairment are all featured. So what didn’t I like about it? Despite being a Young Adult book, it’s definitely for younger readers, maybe a sixth grade reading level. It’s squeaky clean and definitely what I would consider to be children/tween fiction, not teen fiction. I absolutely would recommend this for middle graders, young teens, and it would be a relatively engaging read for reluctant readers. I would have loved this book if I had researched the reading level before diving in. Which is a result of my stupidity and should not be held against the book.
OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10