Ana’s voice bursts from the page and the reader has no choice but to be pulled into her world. She is moving forward, juggling the demands of school, friendship and puberty alongside her chemotherapy and symptoms.
Enter the antagonist. Alyssa Anderson (a nod to Alison Ashley perhaps?) is all blonde perfection. Her mean-girl vibe takes a turn for the bizarre and the reader is left wondering what her motivations really are. Mid-way through, Ana learns what a truly toxic person Alyssa is.
Ana has a difficult choice to make – to waste her previous time hating Alyssa for her unconscionable actions, or to forgive and let it go.
And if you think you can predict where this goes, think again. Master throws in another twist around Alyssa’s motivations. Ana learns that the world is not neat and that loose ends remain untied.
Overall, there are some tear-jerking moments here, as well as lots of humour. And because the story is told in first person, I think that a younger reader needs to be warned (spoiler alert) to not expect an eleventh hour reprieve.
Title: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Author: Maryam Master
Illustrator: Astred Hicks
Publisher: PanMacMillan, $16.99
Publication Date: 27 July 2021
For ages: 8 -12 years
Type: Middle Grade Fiction