Marina is mean. Sachi is nice. Marina is Barney's. Sachi is Burlington Coat Factory. It's bad enough that they have to coexist in video class—but now they're being forced to work together on the big semester project. Marina's goal? Expose her wanna-be BFF as a fashion wanna-be to the entire middle school. Sachi's goal? Prove that she's not just another honor-roll Indian student and get people talking. Work together in harmony? Yeah, that would be no. How can Sachi film something meaningful, and Marina, something fabulous, if they're yoked to each other?
With so many fabulous YA novels out on the market, I rarely venture to read middle grade. I'm so glad I decided to pick up Nice and Mean, though, it was a terrific read! Jessica Leader has a nice writing style and everything flows together well. She gets inside her character's heads, so they're even more believable and realistic. I liked how the narration switched between Sachi (the "nice" girl) and Marina (the "mean" girl). It was interesting to get both of their perspectives on things and also learn more about their family and friends. The idea of bringing them together in a Video elective was fantastic, and it really brought out the best and worst in the two characters. Sachi wanted to film something about different cultures and Marina- about fashion. The story contained very positive messages and proved being mean is not the way to make friends. Also, don't always go with your first impressions of people. Middle schoolers will enjoy and relate to this novel and will definitely take something away from reading it.
I especially liked Sachi's chapters because I enjoyed learning about native Indian cultures and traditions from the perspective of someone from the country. Her family was strict, but her parents did have warm hearts and just wanted what was best for Sachi. Sachi didn't always have the best relationship with her older sister, Priyanka, but that changed as the novel progressed. The one thing that irked me about Sachi was that she always let everyone throw her around. It really made me mad how her "friends" always were so rude to her and she never said anything back to them! Luckily, with Marina's help, Sachi learned to stand up for herself and what she believed in.
Marina also had similar conflicts with her friends, some of them really weren't who they first appeared. The drama surrounding Marina and her friend Rachel was one of the main plot lines and really made the novel seem more realistic. Although I felt bad for Marina, she could really be a mean person, and it took spending time with Sachi to realize this.
Overall, the plot was interesting and unique. Jessica Leader took what could have been a cliched story about two girls and made it her own. The characters were complex as well and I really enjoyed every page of this book. Older readers might have a harder time connecting with the characters, but it will definitely bring back fond (and not so fond!) middle school memories. The ending was great and tied everything together well, making me enjoy the book that much more. This was an amusing, light hearted read, with more serious undertones. I highly recommend this to all fans of middle grade, and if you haven't been a fan before, this is a great book to break back into the genre with.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars