Review: The Kate In Between by Claire Swinarski

The Kate In Between by Claire Swinarski

The Kate In Between
Claire Swinarski
Quill Tree Books
Published May 18, 2021

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About The Kate In Between

Kate McAllister is desperate for a change. Something to hit refresh and erase the pain of her mother leaving town without her. So when a group of popular girls folds Kate into their clique, it feels like the answer to all her problems—even if it means ditching Haddie, her childhood bestie.

But when Kate’s new friends decide that Haddie is their next target, Kate becomes a passive participant in a cruel incident that could have killed Haddie…had Kate not stepped in, at the last minute, and saved her. The next day, a cell phone video of the rescue goes viral, and Kate is hailed a hero. But Kate knows the truth—she was part of the problem—and it’s only a matter of time until the full version of the video is released and everyone knows it too.

With so much at stake, Kate must decide who she wants to be: a liar, a follower, or someone greater.

In this timely, call-to-action contemporary middle grade novel from Claire Swinarski, author of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, a twelve-year-old girl must face herself, and the truth, after her participation in a bullying incident goes viral. 

The Kate In Between on Goodreads

My Review

When I saw that Claire Swinarski had a new book out, I was super excited to read it. I loved her debut novel, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, so I had high expectations for THE KATE IN BETWEEN.

Just like in her previous book, Swinarski gives us a main character with a rich emotional landscape. Kate’s juggling a lot of things: rejection and anger at her mom for leaving her; warring love and embarrassment about living with her dad, a police officer in their small town; and a whole ton of friend guilt over leaving her friendship with her best friend for the cool girls’ group.

So that’s a lot. I loved the relationships between the characters, too.

Haddie is this optimistic, quirky individual, yet she has deep feelings, too. Her friendship with Kate isn’t perfect, but it’s so genuine. Kate’s frustration with Haddie for being oblivious to how other people saw her felt real and understandable. But so did her love for Haddie and her longing for the relationship they had.

Kate and her dad have this really sweet relationship, too. He’s not perfect either– one of the things he does that hurts Kate is to say harsh things about Kate’s mom. It’s easy to see that those comments come from a pretty deep place of frustration with her mom, since she is an impulsive, not very responsible parent, even though she loves Kate a lot. When Kate first moves in with him, it’s like he’s not sure how to reach her or what to do to make her comfortable. Watching him settle into being a full-time dad was really cool. I loved him so much.

I thought Kate’s relationships with Taylor (her new bestie, and the cool girl at school) and with Kate’s mom were also complex and realistic. Kate knows Taylor’s mean, but she sees more in her than that. She sees the hurt and the longing to have real friends. And Kate loves her mom even if she feels pushed aside by her mom’s infatuation with a make-up company and her dreams of making it big as a sales consultant.

So there’s a lot in terms of the relationships making up the story, too. I feel like the risk there is that having so much going on could dilute Kate’s journey, but I didn’t feel like that happened here. Kate’s struggle echoes through each of those relationships. Over and over she’s faced with the question about who she wants to be: the girl who speaks softly and never gets upset? The girl who pushes back and fights when she wants something? Something in between?

THE KATE IN BETWEEN was a quick read for me. I finished it a few days ago and I still find myself thinking about it. I think readers who enjoy books by Kate Messner or Gillian McDunn will love THE KATE IN BETWEEN.

The Kate In Between on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12

The major characters were white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Kate and her dad go to church regularly.

Violent Content
There’s a lot of discussion about bullying in this book. Taylor and her crew were tossing Haddie’s hat around, trying to keep it away from her before Haddie fell in the pond. They say mean things about her. When everyone learns Kate’s full role in the events that day, some people say ugly things about her, too.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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