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It’s not that Becca doesn’t want to visit her father in his new home in Austria. It’s just that she’s terrified. Of flying. Of metal detectors. Of soft-boiled eggs. Really, anything that normal people consider safe is fair game for Becca’s Doomsday Journal: a list of her fears and the worst case scenarios that could result from them.
Still, somehow Becca makes it all the way to Austria, and when faced with the au pair she doesn’t want and a new “friend” she doesn’t need, she’s determined to survive the eight weeks until she can go back to her mom’s house in Virginia. But when Becca starts learning about her au pair’s experiences as a Bosnian refugee, still separated from her mother and brother, Becca’s fears start to feel small by comparison. Although she knows she can’t just make her anxiety goes away, she decides to start using her Journal as her therapist intended: as a way to work through some of her fears on paper so that she can do more things without panic attacks. And once she starts working out her own fears, Becca starts to wonder if she might be able to help the refugees somehow, too.
I loved this middle grade historical fiction novel. Becca is a funny but authentic narrator and the setting in Austria is so real that I felt like I was on vacation (a rare treat in a pandemic…). Yet the Bosnian War in the background brought more serious thematic threads that added both suspense and layers of nuance. I highly recommend this novel to fans of middle grade historical fiction, fans of middle grade contemporary novels set in escapist locales (like ALL YOU KNEAD IS LOVE, for example), and book clubs for 4-7th graders.