Get a free SCARS short story. Sign up for News & Goodies from YA Author Cheryl Rainfield

My Books
See Next Book
STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.


Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

See Previous Book

Love my books?
Join my Street Team!

You'll have my deep gratitude, hear book news first, get swag, and enter to win private contests

Great Middle Grade Books

Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink


Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink
by MAC, illustrated by Glenn Fabry
Toasted Coconut Media,(May 2008)
ISBN-10: 193490600X
ISBN-13: 9781934906002

My rating:

The skinny man skidded to a halt when he saw Anna. "It's you," he breathed. The officer tried to push him on, but the skinny man wouldn't budge. He stared at Anna, his large bug eyes nearly popping from his long, thin face. "You're that girl, aren't you? You're her! That's you, isn't it?"
Anna nodded.
"Can you help me? Please! I don't wanna be a criminal any more!"
Anna slid off the bench and placed one of her business cards in his cuffed hand. "When you get out, give me a call."
The police office stared at Anna strangely as he led a much quieter man toward the jail cells in back.
--Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink by MAC, illustrated by Glenn Fabry, p. 1-2.

Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink is a funny, over-the-top parody of supervillians and heroes, with Anna Smudge being the child hero (she doesn't have super powers, just a great empathy and ability to listen). It's a great romp, though there were so many things I didn't believe that that interfered with my completely enjoying the story.

11-year-old Anna Smudge is ignored by her parents, and bullied at school. She is teased for being slow. But when she realizes her gift of taking the time to really listen to people, she becomes a shrink, helping others solve their problems. At the same time, a villain escapes prison, and his life starts intersecting with Anna's. Eventually Anna helps solve the mystery of who the criminal mastermind is.

MAC starts the book showing us the incredible respect Anna has from adults, and then takes us nine days previous to that scene, where Anna is like many kids--with little to no attention and respect from adults, bullied by another kid, and feels a bit alone. It was smart of MAC to start the book that way; it makes an incredible hook--showing us a child having power--before taking us to the somewhat depressing state of Anna's life (bullied, feeling alone and an outsider, not getting attention from parents) and then the progression to her almost celebrity status. Anna has a great deal more power and respect from adults than most children ever have--an unbelievable amount--and this will appeal to many child readers.

I enjoyed Anna's movement from a bullied, lonely kid to someone with a lot of friends who is respected even by adults. But there were so many plot events that were so completely unbelievable that they kicked me out of the story again and again, and interfered with my enjoyment of the book. There were a lot unresolved plot lines, suggesting a sequel--though I would have liked a few more resolved.

Anna is a likable character, and readers will root for her. Many things add to her appeal--her success and incredible respect in the beginning hook and at the end of the book, her empathy for others, and the way she is neglected and ignored by her parents, and bullied by a peer (which brings reader empathy). It also helps that Anna has friends rallying around her (an increasing number throughout the book) when she is bullied, not believed, or someone she loves is in danger.

MAC uses great humor throughout the book, though I found it the most refreshing and funny in the early pages (where the inmates of a prison want a group session with Anna). The villains mostly appear bumbling or over-the-top, which helps make them not so scary.

Within each chapter, there is Anna's storyline, and then the villain's story line. MAC sets up many plot events nicely, most especially the villain appearing in Anna's story line, through showing us those events from the villain's perspective right before he appears in Anna's life each time. This works very well.

Well-drawn comic images at the beginning of many chapters are a nice touch, and they add to the feeling of the story being like a comic book.

Anna's suggestions to people to help them were often thoughtful and pointed--but it often seemed unbelievable how quickly people just took her advice. Though when this was built up, such as the change in Anna's math teacher and in one of the villains, it became more believable. What was completely unbelievable, though, was how adults turned to her as a "professional shrink." And that's not even mentioning a multitude of events that I couldn't force myself to believe, such as the identity of the villain boss, Mr. Who, or Anna's blackmailer.

What kids will ride with here is the great humor, comic-book like story, and the power and respect that Anna develops, becoming the hero of her own story. It's also empowering how Anna moves from being a victim to a hero, and how it's the kids in this book who solve the mystery and help stop a murder.

Other reviews of Anna Smudge: Jen Robinson

-Added July 15, 2008

Want more books?

Go back to Strong Girls: And Boys, Too to find great Great Middle Grade Books.

Or, go to Great Middle Grade Books to see all of the books.