Definitely Daphne – Tami Charles

Spoilers Ahead!

Annabelle and her father usually travel where her mother’s work takes her but this time her mother’s assignment is TDY (Temporary Duty Yonder) and Annabelle and her father have to stay behind. While she’s serving in Afghanistan for six months Annabelle and her father will be living civilian life. For Annabelle that means the seventh grade, in an actual school with other kids.

All of a sudden the shy girl who used to enjoy being homeschooled while wearing her pyjamas is having fashion emergencies and hiding out in the janitor’s closet. To help Annabelle adjust to civilian life and get a support system in place before her mother’s deployment her parents arrange therapy for her.

This was an easy but predictable read. I loved that the main character’s mother is in the Air Force. I haven’t come across a book for this age group that talks about what it’s like to be a military kid before so I loved that this book explored different characters’ feelings and behaviours relating to this experience. There’s a build up to when Annabelle’s mother needs to leave but the leaving itself doesn’t happen in this book so you don’t get to find out how Annabelle copes when it actually happens.

While I liked the concept of Annabelle talking about trying new things on her vlog I had to suspend my disbelief to get through the sections where the other kids at school are discussing Daphne in front of her, not realising that Annabelle is Daphne. What’s happening in Daphne’s world coincides perfectly with what’s happening at their school and the vlog begins soon after the new kid arrives; the new kid who just so happens to look exactly like Daphne if she was wearing a wig, costume and glasses. Annabelle’s ability to hide in plain sight rivals that of a superhero.

I would have liked to have gotten to know Annabelle’s mother better but enjoyed drooling over her father’s amazing homemade dinners, especially the pizza. I liked Annabelle’s friend John but I never really got much of a sense of Clairna or Nav’s personalities.

I wasn’t quite sure how Rachael was supposed to be maintaining her status as fashion queen if money was tight in her family. I also never figured out what made her so popular that her legions of fans needed to wait outside the bathroom to take selfies with her other than the fact that she’s pretty, but then again I actively avoided the popular kids at school so I doubt I’ll ever understand popularity.

I didn’t find Daphne’s vlogs particularly funny but I may be too old and decrepit to understand their humour. I’m always hesitant when I come across kids using slang and referencing specific songs in books because it dates them so quickly so I have that concern for this book. Personally I think the whole ‘squad’ thing has already been overdone.

With the hype surrounding the Daphne’s first two vlogs it didn’t make sense to me that there’d be almost no interest in the third. I would’ve thought that a significant amount of the people who watched the first two would have also watched the third. How would they know it wasn’t as good if only 9 people saw it?!

While I understood that Annabelle has spent years being homeschooled she talks about watching Netflix and references watching rom-coms so I was surprised that she was as clueless about school life as she was. She didn’t know what a locker was or what ‘putting your face on’ means. I did appreciate some of the other humour relating to Annabelle’s lack of experience in the American school system though.

I was more than a little shocked that it was possible to get an emergency Sunday afternoon appointment with a therapist and that when Annabelle’s mother rang the therapist out of the blue they got straight through. I also cringed when the therapist continually shared details of their appointments with Annabelle’s parents.

In my experience therapists will outline any exclusions to the confidentiality of their appointments up front and while it was true when the therapist said that nothing shared in the appointment would leave the room, Annabelle’s parents were brought into the room to catch them up. While it didn’t seem to be a big deal for Annabelle I know that if I’d attended therapy as a kid and the therapist had then told my parents everything I told them, any trust I had developed with the therapist would have been broken. I hope that kids who read this book aren’t put off by this.

Hopefully the age group this book is marketed towards won’t have already heard variations of this story so many times they could tell you how it’s going to play out step by step but most of the story felt clichéd to me. You’ve basically got a new kid who’s trying to fit in. They become friends with the nice kids who they ditch when the queen bee pays them the slightest bit of attention. Eventually they realise they made a mistake, realising that their nice friends are actually true friends.

Then you’ve got the super obvious secret identity cliché that only one special person and the queen bee figure out before the big reveal. If the main character finally tells everyone the mystery person is actually them and that they’ve been lying to everyone for so long they risk losing every friendship. Oh, and the big reveal can only ever happen at the school dance in front of the entire school.

Despite the clichés this was a sweet book and I did enjoy it. I think military kids in particular will find themselves in Annabelle but those whose parents move frequently for work will also relate to constantly being the new kid. I thought Annabelle’s struggles were handled sensitively and appreciated that her strengths were also highlighted.

Completely irrelevant but welcome to my brain: Because I’m weird I tend to accidentally notice patterns in books. If I was going to go all Sesame Street on you this is where I’d tell you that today’s review has been brought to you by the number 2. In the space of three sentences I found ‘Second Chance’, ‘two carts’, ‘Two Tony’s’ and ‘two hours later’. Further down that page there were ‘two screens’. I’m sure this was unintentional but once my brain sees something like this I then look for it for the rest of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In front of her followers, Daphne is a hilarious, on-the-rise vlog star. But at school Daphne is the ever-skeptical Annabelle Louis, seventh-grade super geek and perennial new kid. To cope with her mom’s upcoming military assignment in Afghanistan and her start at a brand new middle school, Annabelle’s parents send her to a therapist.

Dr. Varma insists Annabelle try stepping out of her comfort zone, hoping it will give her the confidence to make friends, which she’ll definitely need once Mom is gone. Luckily there is one part of the assignment Annabelle DOES enjoy – her vlog, Daphne Doesn’t, in which she appears undercover and gives hilarious takes on activities she thinks are a waste of time. She is great at entertaining her online fans, yet her classmates don’t know she exists. Can Annabelle keep up the double life forever?

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