I tried listening to this book at first an it didn’t stick, but once I tried reading it I got through it very quickly. Five things refers to an improv exercise that is of some importance in the book. There is also some disability representation.
In her mind Ava Andrews is filled with ideas and plans, but only her best friend Zelia sees them. What’s worse Zelia has just moved away leaving Ava with people who think she doesn’t talk or is stuck up. What they can’t see are her invisible disabilities: anxiety and a heart condition.
Ava had hoped middle school would be a fresh start but with Zelia gone she’s not sure what to do, her Nana Linda encourages her to speak up about social issues that just sends Ava further into her shell. Until her writing is recognized by her teacher and impress her classmates and they invite her to join an improv group.
Ava is initially concerned she won’t be able to do it, but wanting something to challenge her anxiety she decides to try going to the group. With the group she discovers a whole new side of herself and a set of friends, and learns what it’s like to be on a team.
But as Ava’s self-confidence blossoms, her relationship with Zelia strains, and she learns that it isn’t enough just to raise your voice—it’s how and why you use it that matters.
First this book did a great job showing the effects of invisible disabilities and how they often aren’t understood by those around the person. It also shows how important the arts can be for disabled people expressing themselves. It’s so important that disabled people are allowed to find their way to show what they have to say. I also loved the activism element of this book and how it shows how kids and teens can be involved in making social change in their communities. Overall, great representation and plot, 5/5.