Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

The Copycat
by Wendy McLeod MacKnight
Release Date: March 10th 2020
2020 Greenwillow Books
Kindle Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062668356
Genre: Fiction / Children / Middle Grade / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Ali and her parents have moved at least once a year for as long as Ali can remember. She’s attended six different schools, lived in dozens of apartments, and never really felt at home anywhere. But Ali’s parents say living in Saint John, New Brunswick, will be different. They’ve moved in with Ali’s great-grandmother—a spunky 99-year-old with a quirky old house that has room for all of them. Ali wants to believe this will be their last move, but everything seems too perfect to be true.

To Ali’s surprise, things are different this time, but not in the way she hoped. She’s finally inherited the Sloane family powers—the ability to change her appearance into any living thing. Ali is a Copycat. Literally. And being the new kid at school is hard enough without worrying about losing control of your powers and turning into your teacher. Luckily, Ali’s new friends are eager to help her use her newfound power. But as Ali soon learns, being a Copycat is no substitute for being yourself.

My Thoughts
The Copycat was a fun, magical story about a young girl who finally moves back to her family home to look after her great-grandmother.  Ali has spent her short life moving from one place to another, never settling down or feeling like she belongs anywhere; she really hopes that this will be the place where she can make good friends and finally discover more about her family.  There were so many things about this story that I really enjoyed: the setting (I am Canadian and although I am not from New Brunswick, I have been there and am familiar with the setting), the mysterious family feud, the way the author wove things into the book, and the friendships.  

Let's start with Ali: she is a bright, 12-year-old girl looking to make a fresh start, but she has had difficulty with friendships in the past so she has developed these rules.  Unfortunately, the rules don't really work out so well for her here, and the kids quickly realize that she is quick to agree to anything they say without really having an opinion of her own.  I enjoyed Ali's realization that she was being to accommodating to others and that she was coming of as fake. And while she could be frustrating at times, and you just want to tell her to be honest with her friends, it was nice to follow her on her journey of self-realization.  And I really think middle grade readers would enjoy the journey and be able to reflect on it and maybe learn something from it themselves.

The story line was a lot of fun, with a bit of a paranormal twist in it.  Ali is a copycat, and how she discovers her powers is a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the training and laughed along with her attempts to change into different animals and characters - the Incredible Hulk being one of my favourites.  The paranormal stuff didn't take over the story, but was just part of it and I liked that.  Sometimes books get too caught up in the paranormal, and then character development and plot sometimes gets shunted to the background.  This did not happen here as each character had their own issues, making them a part of the story, not just secondary characters.  The author threw in a lot of fun facts about The Bay of Fundy (something you really have to see for yourself as it's amazing), and other historical tidbits that fit in nicely with the story.  The little family feud was also interesting, and while I eventually figured it out and was happy about it, I also think young readers would enjoy the little twist.  It was just enough mystery that young readers would not be overwhelmed, but also engaging and intriguing.  

The Copycat definitely has many elements that I think will engage young readers; there is the new girl who has to learn how to make new friendships and learn about herself at the same time, plus there is the paranormal element that adds a bit of a complication to a young girl's life.  I enjoyed the setting as well as the characters and would love to see a sequel to this book. As a Canadian, I love it when I read books that are set in Canada, and in towns I have visited.  I highly recommend this book.


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