Book Review: Make a Move, Sunny Park! by Jessica Kim
From the author of Stand Up, Yumi Chung! comes a funny and utterly charming novel about friends—how to make them, how to let go of them, and how to be your own BFF.
This is the story of Sunny Park, a seventh-grade student at Ranchito Mesa Middle who loves the K-pop band Supreme Beat, hanging out with her cool grandma, dancing when no one is watching, snacking on shrimp chips, and being there for Bailey, her best friend since third grade. When Bailey decides that she and Sunny should audition for the school dance team in a ploy to parent-trap Bailey’s divorced mom and dad, Sunny agrees even though the thought of performing in public makes her pits sweat. After all, she’d do anything for Bailey. In a twist of fate, Sunny makes the team and Bailey doesn’t, and when Sunny reluctantly joins, it’s the start of a painful and drawn-out parting of ways for the two girls. As Sunny takes her first steps out from behind her friend’s shadow, she’ll have to figure out who she wants to be when she’s in the spotlight—and who she wants dancing alongside her.
This was a great read. The characters were great, the pacing was great, the writing was great, the plot was great. IT WAS ALL GREAT.
I just don’t think there can ever be enough middle grade stories where at least part of the focus is on how friendships change and maybe even end. For all of us, at every age, this is a relatable plot point, but probably never more so than middle school. And it’s not the end of the world. It might feel like it is, but it’s not. It happens. There will be other, maybe better and healthier friendships to come, even if it feels like that can’t possibly be true. Sunny, who has really found friends she connects with, makes mistakes and hurts feelings and gets her feelings hurt as she discovers how friendships can change. And that’s all okay. And how great for readers to get to see this.
The distance between Sunny and her bossy best friend Bailey begins to grow when Sunny makes the school dance team and Bailey doesn’t. Suddenly Sunny has new friends and Bailey, who is going through some things at home, is not happy. She makes Sunny feel guilty, she demands her attention, she even goes so far as to sabotage Sunny’s new friendships. And Sunny makes some not great but totally typical and common choices. She ditches friends, lies, talks behind their backs, and more. She’s trying to navigate this new portion of her life and it’s not easy. She definitely messes up a lot. But, as her coach tells her, “You’re bigger than your biggest mistake.” A great reminder for readers who may be busy making lots of mistakes of their own.
Sunny begins to figures it out. She begins to understand how to have more than one good friend. She sees the consequences of her actions, she makes apologies, and she sets boundaries. All while having a blast dancing and working toward attending the concert of her favorite K-pop band. Also! Sunny has social anxiety and that complicates so much of how she approaches situations and people. But she’s getting help, she knows what she’s dealing with and how to cope with her anxiety and panic attacks, and shares these facts with her friends. Making new friends and trying new things can be anxiety-provoking for anyone, but add in an actual anxiety diagnosis, and it all seems extra brave that Sunny is putting herself out there. This book also includes a fantastic scene of Sunny getting her period for the first time and new friend Jadyn, a boy, noticing this fact and being completely cool and amazing while helping her out (getting her a pad from the nurse, grabbing a sweatshirt from the lost and found for her to cover up her stain).
I can’t say enough great things about this book. A fantastic read about a cool kid doing her best to figure out middle school and the many issues that come with growing up.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 08/15/2023
Age Range: 9 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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