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  • Writer's pictureZoe

Focused: Book Review

Clea wants to do better, she really does, but she can't stop messing up in school. Sure, she was determined to finish her math homework, but her brain was on overload with practicing chess, making sense of a messy room, and playing with her little sister. Now she's standing at the chalkboard in math class, desperately trying to figure out how to solve one of the problems she forgot to do the night before.

Her parents and teachers are anxious about her and her slipping grades, but Clea convinces them she's fine. "I've just been distracted," she insists. "I won't mess up again, promise."

Schoolwork isn't the only thing worrying Clea; she keeps blurting out stuff she really shouldn't share and can't seem to stay focused on anything. She's even having problems concentrating during chess, her favorite thing in the whole world!

Finally, the school's guidance counselor reaches out to Clea's parents . . . saying the school wants to test Clea for ADHD. Clea's adamant it's a complete waste of time. She'd have to spend three whole school days testing! I'm sorry, didn't they say it was supposed to help her stay ahead with her work? Besides, there's no way she has ADHD. She's not loud and energetic during class and she's fine sitting for long periods of time. To top it all off, she is not on board with missing chess practice. The tourney where her team competes against other schools is coming up, and because she's been so distracted lately, she has to prove to her teacher that she's a loyal team member.

Her parents bypass her pleas, however, and allow her to be tested. The results rock Clea's world. How can she have ADHD? However, she has to admit it does kind of make sense when the teacher explains it to her. There are multiple kinds of ADHD, and Clea's entails speaking before thinking and becoming distracted easily.

The diagnosis was supposed to make Clea's life easier, but it's turning out to be just the opposite. She accidentally blurted out her best friend Red's secret to the entire school. When she tried to explain her ADHD to him, he was furious and wouldn't listen. Now Clea's completely friendless. She's still struggling in her classes because she's afraid to ask for extra time from her teachers. Worse enough, a girl in her class found out about her ADHD and is teasing her relentlessly. Can Clea turn it around in time to be able to play in the chess tourney? Will Red ever listen to her? And will she be able to make sense of her new life after being diagnosed?

I was so excited to see this book on the library shelf because I'm a huge fan of Alyson Gerber's other book, Braced, which is about a girl with scoliosis. I love her writing style because it appeals to teens and addresses serious issues that many kids struggle with that readers may not know much about. As I was reading this book, I realized I didn't understand a lot of what ADHD entailed. From being able to hear Clea's perspective, I grasped how difficult it is to try to put your mind to things and not be able to focus. Novels like this are terrific because they both educate readers about something that improves their empathy and makes people who have the same condition feel heard and like they can relate more to a character.

Perfect for fans of Fish in a Tree and Out of my Mind, Focused offers a unique perspective on ADHD by showing it through the eyes of a plucky heroine. Readers will love Clea's honest take and her humor and compassion. I guarantee this fresh new novel will become a fan favorite!


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