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Kayla Miller’s Clash | Review

Clash by Kayla Miller cover

by Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Grades 3-7

Olive is back and struggling with friendship in Kayla Miller’s Clash. The young woman, first seen in Click, normally makes friends with everyone. That’s why she’s happy to volunteer to show new student Nat around.

Unfortunately, Nat may not have the best motives in return. She’s quick to join up with the cheerleaders. She declares things “dorky” or “old news.” She’s a show-off, and soon Olive is afraid that her friends will like Nat better.

Miller does an excellent job filling the pages with the large cast of kids. It can be tricky for a new reader to keep up with the variety of characters, but they’re all distinctive, so attention — or a re-read — clears everything up.

She’s also confident enough for silent sequences. She uses them when Olive is trying to catch up on a show Nat said she liked, or when Olive has a lonely evening trying to process her feelings. They also show time passing during an activity, such as shopping or a party.

The biggest flaw with Clash is that it’s not clear what Nat’s motivations are. Is she mean and manipulative on purpose? Or just resorting to the kind of behavior she says was common at her previous school? The reader doesn’t get to see inside Nat’s head. It’s hard to get a good idea of her as a character, instead of a plot device.

Other people, including Olive’s mother, provide possible motivations, but it would be more interesting to know what she was thinking. The overall message, though, that not everyone will like the same things or become close friends, is handled in a way that readers can learn from it.

With much of the book turning on a Halloween party, including planning activities and making costumes, this is a fun fall read. Bonus pages provide easy costume ideas and a short interview with the author. Olive and her friends also appear in Camp (about summer camp) and Act (about school politics).

Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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