The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. In this novel, equal parts funny and crushing, utterly honest and perfect for boys and girls alike, Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn't fit anymore. Readers will relate to this strong female protagonist whose voice rings with profound authenticity and absolute novelty, and her year's cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are. This book marks beloved author Karen Romano Young's masterful return to children's literature: a heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to be between girl and woman, elementary and middle school, inside and out—and just what you name that in-between self.
Hundred Percentby Karen Romano Young
Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young is a novel that addresses the awkwardness and unsurety that comes with being in 6th grade. Tink, her friend Jackie, and their classmates have their sights set on middle school, but in the meantime they are learning to navigate the awkward social scene that can be tricky to understand at this age. It starts off at the beginning of the school year and rushes through the entire 6th grade year, which allows the reader to see the growth, or lack thereof, in some of the characters as they keep striving for maturity and what comes with it.
First, what made Hundred Percent commendable: Tink, the main character, comes across as a bright, thoughtful girl who just also happens to be unsure of herself, both socially and physically--but who isn't at that age? The times she is being herself, she is really likable as a character and has some amazing, well-thought out insight into navigating the 6th grade social scene. The other thing that was noteworthy in this novel is the fact that Tink's family is a normal, average, happy family. The parents are still married and like each other. They take time for the kids. They have family dinner together. Tink, even though her siblings bug her at times, likes spending time with them and helps her mom out without complaining. And Tink recognizes all of this as a good thing. In this day and age where dysfunctional families seem to be written as the norm, Tink's just average, normal family was refreshing.
However, there is much that just doesn't sit right with Hundred Percent. Remember how Tink was likable when she was being herself? Well, it seemed like there was this alter-ego Tink that took over when she was around or talking to her long-time BFF, Jackie. Around her she obsessed about boys and body image (specifically about the size of certain body parts). This whole new persona was not very likeable and prone to doing things that just didn't seem in character. In fact, all of the characters more often than not seemed much older than 11/12 years old, in voice and in actions. Dwelling on boys and changing bodies, mentions and innuendos made by the kids about sex, and other references to mature subjects seemed out of place for a book targeting the typical middle grade reading age group of eight to twelve year olds.
As the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, I am not so naive as to think that some of these discussions don't occur; however, it felt disproportionate in this case. Because of this disparity in what made this book commendable, namely the navigating of these awkward, angst-ridden years through the eyes of a likable pre-teen girl, compared to the focus on boys and bodies as well as the other content, Hundred Percent isn't really a novel that works with the target audience of young middle schoolers, and thus the age recommendation of 14+. However, older readers might not relate to characters aged 11/12, so that leaves this book a bit adrift, looking for the right demographic audience.
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations; 1 mild obscenity; 7 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture (character says she wishes she would have given someone the finger). Note: Not included in the tallies--secondhand accounts of someone using the term 'horney skank'; the word 'slutty' is used at 4 times.
Violence/Gore: Boy accidently gets pushed into a water fountain resulting in a bloody injury to the mouth; character grabs another by the wrist and threatens to punch her lights out; characters act out a fake barroom type fight that includes fake pushing and punching.
Sex/Nudity: Pre-teen girls dwell/talk about on the size of their breasts (4 accounts); character wishes a boy would come into her bedroom window wanting her; girls and boys play a game that involves rolling on top of each other in the grass and one comments how enjoyable it was; 2 unmarried adults kiss (2 accounts); one chapter is titled "Pregnant Girlfriend" because a 12 year old girl dresses up for Halloween as a pregnant girl; breasts referred to as bazoomas and boobs (3 accounts); 2 characters dress up for Halloween (one as a pregnant girl and the other as a bum) and references are made to how people think the one got the other pregnant; discussion between 2 pre-teen girls about how "sleeping with someone" means they are having sex; character asks if 2 unmarried adults are going to be sleeping together; boy and girl hold hands (5 accounts); boy says he likes to draw naked girls; boy says to girl she would look good naked and sexy; characters told to "get a room" as they slow dance; someone described as dancing like a "sex machine"; someone meanly writes that a girl gave a boy a boner; someone says "lezzie alert" when 2 girls hug in a friendship way.
Mature Subject Matter:
Divorce, sexuality, puberty.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Mention of girl getting her own glass of wine on her 12th birthday; characters act out a barroom scene and someone is told to act like a gin soaked barroom queen; character mentions how homeless people act drunk and smell like gin.
Reviewed By Sally