Tag Archives: marching band

Review: Not If You Break Up With Me First by G. F. Miller

Not If You Break Up With Me First by G. F. Miller

Not If You Break Up With Me First
G. F. Miller
Published June 4, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Not If You Break Up With Me First

Two friends who have unhappily found themselves in an accidental relationship try to drive the other one to call things off in this tongue-in-cheek middle grade romance.

Childhood friends Eve and Andrew are destined to be together— everyone says so, especially their friends and classmates who are all suddenly crush-obsessed. So when Eve and Andrew’s first eighth grade school dance rolls around and Eve, feeling the pressure, awkwardly asks Andrew to go with her, everyone assumes they are Officially Dating and Practically in Love. Overwhelmed, Eve and Andrew just…go with it.

And it’s weird. Neither of them wants this dating thing to mess up their friendship, and they don’t really see each other that way. But they also don’t want to be the one to call things off, the one to make things super awkward. So they both—separately—pledge to be the worst boyfriend or girlfriend ever, leaving it to the other person to break up with them. It would be genius…if the other person weren’t doing the exact same thing.

My Review

This is kind of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, but make it middle grade and where they’re both trying to get the other person to break up with them.

What really makes this great is the writing. Some scenes are hilariously awkward. Others nailed middle school so perfectly, I felt like I had time-traveled. It’s silly, sometimes gross (fart jokes, etc), but it doesn’t skimp on heart.

The chapters alternate between Eve and Andrew’s points of view, so readers are in on each person’s plan to drive the other to dump them and why it seems like a good idea. Writing both viewpoints also shows us how much Eve and Andrew miss their friendship, what they value about one another, and their hurt feelings and loneliness.

The short chapters make this one an easy, quick read. This would work well for readers who aren’t quite sure they’re interested in romance books yet or readers looking for books about changing relationships in middle school or friend drama.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Eve and Andrew are white. Also of interest: Andrew plays quads on his school’s drum line. Eve loves science, specifically space, and compares lots of things to space phenomena. Eve’s parents separate during the story.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Brief crude humor.

Romance/Sexual Content
A boy and girl hold hands. Some mentions of kissing between other couples, but not on scene. At one point, someone asks a girl what her sexual identity is, and she responds that she doesn’t want to think about that yet, can’t she just be thirteen for now? A nice nod to kids who aren’t sure and resent the pressure of being asked as a way to explain why they aren’t dating or reject someone who asks them out.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
A prank war escalates, causing some hurt feelings and consequences when shool property is damaged.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

I’m sharing this post as a part of a weekly round-up of middle-grade posts called Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday. Check out other blogs posting about middle-grade books today on Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays at Always in the Middle with Greg Pattridge.

Review: Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Forward March
Skye Quinlan
Page Street Press
Published February 1, 2022

Amazon | BookshopGoodreads

About Forward March

What’s worse? Someone using your face for catfishing or realizing you actually do have a crush on the catfished girl?

Harper “Band Geek” McKinley just wants to make it through her senior year of marching band—and her Republican father’s presidential campaign. That was a tall order to start, but everything was going well enough until someone made a fake gay dating profile posing as Harper. The real Harper can’t afford for anyone to find out about the Tinder profile for three very important reasons:

1. Her mom is the school dean and dating profiles for students are strictly forbidden.
2. Harper doesn’t even know if she likes anyone like that—let alone if she likes other girls.
3. If this secret gets out, her father could lose the election, one she’s not sure she even wants him to win.

But upon meeting Margot Blanchard, the drumline leader who swiped right, Harper thinks it might be worth the trouble to let Margot get to know the real her.

With her dad’s campaign on the line, Harper’s relationship with her family at stake, and no idea who made that fake dating profile, Harper has to decide what’s more important to her: living her truth or becoming the First Daughter of America.

My Review

I liked a lot of things about this story. It’s the second marching band story that I’ve read recently, and I really enjoyed dipping into that world again. I also thought that, for a story about a girl whose father is running for president, the politics stayed sidelined, except for where they impacted Harper personally. It kept the story about her instead of being about politics, which I think is great.

I liked Harper as a character, too. She’s timid, especially at first, but she grows a lot through the story. She learns a lot about taking ownership of what she wants and deciding what she will do about it.

The story also explores different kinds of toxic relationships, some more obliquely, and others much more up close. Apologies if this next part is confusing– I’m trying to avoid spoilers.

So. Toxic relationships. This is where my feelings about the book are really split. On the one hand, I thought the way the story explored Harper’s relationships with her parents (and her brother’s history with them) was great. Parent relationships are complicated, and Harper’s relationships with hers are no exception. She has to learn when to challenge, when to find outside support, and when to do what they say until she graduates. Those aren’t always easy decisions. I felt her conflict, anxiety, and hurt so much through the book in those scenes with her parents.

I kind of had a problem with some of the peer relationships in FORWARD MARCH, though. Harper, especially at the beginning of the story, is a really passive character who does a lot of dangerous things to self-sabotage. She doesn’t carry her Epipen or her inhaler, instead depending on others to anticipate her need for them. And she surrounds herself by people who do exactly that and more. One girl searches Harper’s lunch plate for rogue seafood (which Harper is allergic to). While Harper thinks it’s a bit much, she’s also touched at what she feels is this girl’s protectiveness.


As much as Harper grows through the story, I felt like this codependent/passive behavior on her part and the controlling or hypervigilant behavior on the part of the people around her doesn’t really get addressed. She has other conflicts with her friends which also end in an unsatisfying way for me. It felt like instead of really working through an issue, she avoids her friends for a while until she feels bad that they’re still sad and then decides to be friends again.

While I think that makes sense in a high school age character, I wish there had at least been an acknowledgement of the unhealthiness of some of Harper’s actions and relationships.

All in all, I both enjoyed and struggled with things in FORWARD MARCH. I’m kind of split on this one. Readers who enjoyed GET IT TOGETHER, DELILAH by Erin Gough may like this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Harper is ace and a lesbian. Margot is a lesbian. Other LGBTQ+ minor characters.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls. Reference to explicit text messages (the content of the messages isn’t revealed).

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Some homophobic and transphobic comments and behavior. Harper worries that her parents will throw her out or force her to go to conversion therapy if they learn that she’s queer. The dean of the school does not acknowledge or respect a nonbinary student’s identity. Some mentions of self-harm.

Drug Content
Some students drink beer at a bonfire. Two people (one student, one not) talk about unhealthy parts of their lives in which they drank too much alcohol and needed to get help.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of FORWARD MARCH in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher

Full Flight
Ashley Schumacher
Wednesday Books
Published February 22, 2022

Amazon | BookshopGoodreads

About Full Flight

Everyone else in the tiny town of Enfield, Texas calls fall football season, but for the forty-three members of the Fighting Enfield Marching Band, it’s contest season. And for new saxophonist Anna James, it’s her first chance to prove herself as the great musician she’s trying hard to be.

When she’s assigned a duet with mellophone player Weston Ryan, the boy her small-minded town thinks of as nothing but trouble, she’s equal parts thrilled and intimidated. But as he helps her with the duet, and she sees the smile he seems to save just for her, she can’t help but feel like she’s helping him with something too.

After her strict parents find out she’s been secretly seeing him and keep them apart, together they learn what it truly means to fight for something they love. With the marching contest nearing, and the two falling hard for one another, the unthinkable happens, and Anna is left grappling for a way forward without Weston.

A heartbreaking novel about finding your first love and what happens when it’s over too soon. Ashley Schumacher’s FULL FLIGHT is about how first love shapes us—even after it’s gone.

My Review

This book broke me. Like. I’ve read lots of books where you know the love is doomed and someone is going to die. Sometimes, like with FULL FLIGHT, I know it before I pick up the book because it’s in the cover copy or the title (looking at you, THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END).

But I’ve never read a book like that and had the experience I had with this one. I had so much anxiety about Weston’s death. I knew it was coming. I’d breathe a huge sigh when the next chapter was his point-of-view. I’d panic when it was Anna’s perspective, and skim ahead until I saw him mentioned and still alive.

This one hit me really hard. And it was more than just liking both characters and finding their romance so sweet and adorable. Y’all. The writing here. Wow. I felt completely immersed. Marching band. The friendships. Music. Emotions. It all blew me away.

I loved Schumacher’s debut, AMELIA UNABRIDGED, and to be honest, I was excited about reading another book by her. I was also really nervous because I knew from the outset I was signing up for some heartbreak. It seemed impossible that I could like another book as much as AMELIA, and they’re not the same. But I loved this one, too.

All in all, I loved FULL FLIGHT. I loved the story (the cleverness of skipping chapter 25!), the characters, and how emotionally immersive it all was. Fans looking for laugh-out-loud great friendships, gorgeous romance and total heartbreak– I think I cried for like 30 minutes– definitely need this one on their lists.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Major characters are white. Anna is fat.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently. Both Anna and Weston’s best friend Ratio don’t like him to curse.

Romance/Sexual Content
Mention of a kiss between two girls. Kissing between a boy and girl. They undress and it’s stated that they have sex, but no description of the event.

Spiritual Content
Weston and Anna live in a small town where most of the kids go to youth group and church as a social activity. Anna talks about how she’s been taught not to have premarital sex and to keep her thoughts pure.

Violent Content
Weston received some bullying text messages from drunk classmates a year earlier. He tells Anna about them.

Drug Content
Reference to teens drinking alcohol.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of FULL FLIGHT in exchange for my honest review.