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Fly Back, Agnes

Fly Back, Agnes
Elizabeth Atkinson By (author)
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Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

5.3 X 7.5 in
296 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Marriage & Divorce
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Adolescence


International Book Awards — 2020 — Winner
Moonbeam Children's Book Award — 2020 — Winner


A heartfelt story that sensitively tackles the everyday inner turmoil of growing up and staying true to oneself.

Twelve-year-old Agnes hates everything about her life: her name, her parents' divorce, her best friend's abandonment, her changing body . . . . So while staying with her dad over the summer, she decides to become someone else. She tells people she meets that her name is Chloe, she's fourteen, her parents are married, and she's a dancer and actor—just the life she wants.

But Agnes's fibs quickly stack up and start to complicate her new friendships, especially with Fin, whose mysterious relative runs a local raptor rehab center that fascinates Agnes. The birds, given time and care, heal and fly back home. Agnes, too, wants to get back to wherever she truly belongs. But first she must come to see the good in her real life, however flawed and messy it is, and be honest with her friends, her family, and herself.


"When 12-year-old Agnes Moon's mother, Mo, announces that they'll be spending the summer in Kansas with Mo's boyfriend and his weird kid, Agnes quietly snaps. Furious, Agnes spins a little lie that gets her out of the whole ordeal. Now she's housesitting a beautiful home (and adorable dog!) with her dad all summer. Since he's busy working on his PhD during the day, Agnes has ample time to explore, which is how she ends up in the neighboring town of Renew. There, she makes new friends and reinvents herself as Chloe, a girl with the life and family of her dreams, a liberating feeling until the lies turn on her. Atkinson stuffs a few too many issues into this book, with divorce and blended families, puberty and Agnes getting her period, an intersex friend and best-friend drama all squeezed into one summer. However, readers may well identify with one or more of Agnes' experiences. Place this with books like Karen Rivers' A Possibility of Whales (2018) and Kim Harrington's Revenge of the Red Club (2019)."—BooklistJournal

"Fifth grade graduate Agnes struggles with her changing body, her fractured family, even an old-fashioned name she doesn't feel fits her. When her steamroller of a mother announces a harebrained summer trip with her new boyfriend, Agnes crafts a lie so she can stay with her college professor father in another town. One lie quickly leads to others. In her new reality she is Chloe, a 14-year-old actress with a perfect family. With her father working on his PhD, Agnes has the freedom to roam the charming rural town. She meets a cadre of friendly people, including Stella and the enigmatic Fin, also visiting and with a mysterious background. Agnes becomes a friend and confidant to the teenagers, each of whom have family issues not dissimilar to her own. Everyone in town seems to have a secret and they all reveal themselves to Agnes, not realizing she is keeping so many of her own. Atkinson captures Agnes's innocence and reluctance to embrace change while desiring to be a different person in a different situation. Though her mother's character is drawn larger than life, interesting and unique supporting characters help bring the town down to earth. VERDICT Issues of peer acceptance, popularity, and the repercussions of divorce are delicately explored in thissweet and tender tale. Will resonate with middle grade and early high school students, especially those at a crossroads in their lives."—School Library JournalJournal

"Agnes's story is full of revelations. The truth is delicate and durable—and different than it appears."—Blythe Woolston, author of MARTiansOther Print

"I love Elizabeth Atkinson's novels for their emotional complexity and the sensitive but frank portrayals of tween and preteen protagonists. Fly Back, Agnes is a beautifully written, deft, imaginative portrayal of a girl on the cusp of becoming herself and discovering her own powers. From the first word to the last, Atkinson's narrative voice stays unswervingly true to her narrator, the eponymous Agnes, in a way that will resonate deeply with all readers, and especially younger ones. "—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner award-winning author of The Great Man and The Last CruiseOther Print

"Fly Back, Agnes is a charming novel that I read in one sitting. Elizabeth Atkinson has crafted a quirky yet tender story that also manages to explore some of the deep challenges faced by today's youth. I loved this book and am ready to pack my bags and head off to rural Vermont!"—Laurie Friedman, author of the Mallory seriesOther Print

"Elizabeth Atkinson has written a tenderhearted coming-of-age novel that gives you all the feels—each character as intriguing and multilayered as the next."—Danielle Joseph, author of Shrinking Violet, Indigo Blues, and Pure RedOther Print

"Fly Back, Agnes settles right in your heart. The storytelling holds you tight with secrets abounding all round."—Terry Farish, author of The Good Braider and Either the Beginning or the End of the WorldOther Print

Author Bio

Elizabeth Atkinson has been an editor, a children's librarian, an English teacher, and a newspaper columnist. She lives in Newburyport, MA. Visit her at