New Girl on Salt Flat Road: Lola Zola begs her mom for a bra, just wanting to be like all the other girls in middle school, but her mom keeps saying Lola doesn’t need a bra yet. She wants her daughter to stay a child, while Lola is really to grow up! Especially when a new girl moves in, a girl that Lola and her best friend Melanie dub “Tween Queen Pauline” due to her gorgeous hair and curvy body. Zola feels like the chosen one when Pauline invites her to the mall to try on bikinis (even though Lola doesn’t fill hers out) and to a makeup party (even though Lola isn’t allowed to wear makeup). Unfortunately, this makes Melanie, Lola’s best friend, feel left out. But when Lola discovers that Pauline shoplifts and likes boys—including Lola’s crush!—she isn’t as sure that she wants to be Ms. Popularity.
There are a few sections in New Girl on Salt Flat Road where the timeline jumps a bit from present time to flashbacks (sometimes just an earlier instance in the same day) that is confusingly worded, but overall the books are very accessible for tweens, written in their language—literally, in the case of current slang, but also written for their grade level.
Lola Zola is published by “Brown Girls Publishing” (which does NOT exclusively print African-American books OR African-American authors) and the character often laments about her wild hair, but otherwise nothing is explicitly stated about Lola’s race. Which doesn’t matter, of course, though the series seems to be about people of color (especially if you judge both books by their covers). This doesn’t detract from the story at all, but I think it would be a great opportunity to highlight a strong, bold girl of color - IF that is what the authors intended. Melanie, Lola’s best friend, is frequently mentioned as being pale and freckling in the sun, so it would be just as easy to slip in a few phrases about Lola’s race.
Winograd, Marcy and Jackie Hirtz. New Girl on Salt Flat Road. Houston, TX: Brown Girls Books, 2015. Print.
*Disclaimer: I was sent free copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.