Fly Back, Agnes by Elizabeth Atkinson REVIEW

A story that 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.

Purchase Link: Amazon


Elizabeth Atkinson’s award-winning middle grade novels include FROM ALICE TO ZEN AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN (Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books), I EMMA FREKE (starred School Library Journal review, Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books, 2010 Gold Moonbeam Award, Honor Book Award by the Society of School Librarians International, the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award shortlist, Sunshine State Young Reader Award), THE SUGAR MOUNTAIN SNOW BALL (2016 Gold Moonbeam Award, 2016 Maine Literary Finalist, LitPick Top Choice Award), and THE ISLAND OF BEYOND (2018 NYC READS 365 Book List, 2017 Maine Literary Award Finalist, National Council of Teachers of English 2017 Notable Book, New York Public Library’s 2016 Best Kids & Teen Books List). FLY BACK, AGNES will be released Spring 2020. Raised in Harvard, Massachusetts, Elizabeth received her BA at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and her MA in Liberal Studies at Dartmouth College. She currently divides her time between the north shore of Massachusetts and western Maine. Her favorite part of writing novels for children is visiting with (in person and virtually) schools, libraries, book clubs, and offering fun, interactive writing workshops to middle grade students. Contact her at to learn more!

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I think this book might have been perfect if not for the confused identity aspect in a character that even had me with more questions than answers after they were introduced.

Other than that, I loved this book from the first chapter. I loved the inner dialogue, the sarcasm, and Agnes' view on life. It represented her age well with the high of living free and owning who she was, then suddenly hitting a brick wall with how quickly life changes as a preteen both internally and externally, going through an identity crisis she wasn't prepared for.

I thought this premise was a perfect representation of the struggle to merge these two selves within you. The supporting characters did go a bit deeper than I might have wanted introducing teenage pregnancy and the confused identity that just left me more confused with such a shallow introduction to his issues. I think it would have been fine just dealing with that characters struggle with adoption instead of bringing on that many layers to one person. I do not have a child, but I'd be nervous to have a preteen finish this book then come to me with questions unprepared.

I was getting nervous as this story was nearing an end with how the author would wrap everything up cleanly, but she did beautifully. Everything came crashing down at once and it was a beautiful disaster that unraveled exquisitely.

Thank you BookSparks for the free review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


“It was hard to help others if you hadn’t figured out how to help yourself.”

“The thought of blood seeping uncontrollably from my body every month for the next 35 to 40 years sounded like the most unnatural thing in the world. It seemed only fair that I got a choice in all of this, or at the very least, a few more years to be a kid. I had just turned twelve less than a month ago.”

“They had argued a lot, but then suddenly they stopped fighting and began speaking calmly to each other, like they were strangers. That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Mo eventually explained that she and my father were simply different peas meant to live in separate pods. You would think two adults could figure that out before they got married and had kids.”