The Cool Code

HarperCollins/Clarion. Nov. 2022. 224p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780358549321. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9780358549314. .
Gr 5-8–Homeschooled Zoey isn’t thrilled that her parents’ new time-intensive work project means she now has to attend Hawthorne Middle School. Anxious about becoming a social outcast, Zoey uses her talent for coding to develop the Cool Code, an app that will guide her through the pitfalls of middle school and straight to popularity. Unfortunately, the app is far from perfect, but with the help of her new friends Daniel (who has brown skin a dark, curly hair) and Morgan (who has a Chinese surname), Zoey is determined to make it—and herself—a success. The artwork is vibrant, with expressive characters, including C.C., the outspoken pink llama avatar of the Cool Code app. Zoey (who has light skin and brown hair) is a likable character who clearly can handle making friends on her own, even if she doesn’t always have the confidence, but readers will still relate to her anxiety. The students at Hawthorne Middle School are diverse in appearance and are generally supportive of, although often confused by, Zoey as she tests out different versions of her program.
VERDICT A humorous exploration of cracking the middle school social code for anyone craving more personified snarky llamas in their lives.

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