Gianna Zales is a middle school student. She is a talented cross country runner, and a gifted artist. She is not, however, a particularly strong student, or at least not one of those kids who always has a pencil, and finishes homework, and has the organizational skills to finish projects ahead of time.
Gianna's science teacher has assigned a giant leaf identification project. And if Gianna doesn't finish it, she won't be allowed to run in the cross country sectionals, even though she is a star runner at her school. Bianca, a nasty classmate, is eagerly waiting to take Gianna's place, and does all that she can to make that happen.
Gianna's family life is no less complicated. Gianna's beloved grandmother, Nonna, is in the beginning states of what appears to be Alzheimer's. Her mom, an ultra organized type A personality is having a hard time accepting her mother's declining health. And Gianna's father runs a funeral home, and insists upon carting Gianna around town in a hearse.
I loved this book. Kate Messner's characters were terrific. Gianna, a really good girl, a terrific friend and loving granddaughter who just doesn't quite fit into the school mold. Zig, Gianna's best friend/almost boyfriend, who is ultra organized and scientific does his best to keep Gianna on track during the leaf project, I love that Messner breaks the organized girl taking care of her boyfriend stereotype. Most of all, Nonna, who is at that very painful place where she knows she is forgetting things. Nonna reminded me of my very special, much loved grandma. I loved her sweet, sweet gentle wisdom. I loved the ending of this book, how Gianna resolves her leaf project problem in her own way.
A terrific read!