Just Shy of Ordinary (Hardcover)

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Just Shy of Ordinary By A. J. Sass Cover Image
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In this heartfelt novel about family, friendship, and identity perfect for fans of The List of Things That Will Not Change and Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, a thirteen-year-old nonbinary kid discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan—especially when they start public school for the first time. ​
Thirteen-year-old Shai is an expert problem-solver. There’s never been something they couldn’t research and figure out on their own. But there’s one thing Shai hasn’t been able to logic their way through: picking at the hair on their arms.    
Ever since their mom lost her job, the two had to move in with family friends, and the world went into pandemic lockdown, Shai’s been unable to control their picking. Now, as the difficult times recede and everyone begins to discover their “new normal,” Shai’s hoping the stress that caused their picking will end, too.
After reading that a routine can reduce anxiety, Shai makes a plan to create a brand new normal for themself that includes going to public school. But when their academic evaluation places them into 9th grade instead of 8th, it sets off a chain of events that veer off the path Shai had prepared for, encouraging Shai to learn how to accept life's twists and turns, especially when you can't plan for them.

About the Author

A. J. Sass (he/they) is the author of the ALA Rainbow Book List Top 10 titles Ellen Outside the Lines, which was also a Sydney Taylor Honor Book, and Ana on the Edge, as well as Camp QUILTBAG (co-written with Nicole Melleby). He grew up in the Midwest and South, spending many of his summers with his family enjoying the beautiful Northwoods lakes and scenery in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his husband and two cats who act like dogs. He invites you to visit him online at sassinsf.com.

Praise For…

Praise for Ellen Outside the Lines:
A Sydney Taylor Honor Book
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Booklist’s 2022 Editors’ Choice Book 

* "A heartwarming and inviting book about finding self that hits at the ever-changing (and challenging) world of middle school. Recommended for all middle grade shelves."—SLJ, starred review

* "Sass' sophomore novel shines in its nuanced characterizations, subversion of stereotypes, and world that celebrates autism for the joy it brings Ellen when they are happily flapping. A tender, sweet coming-of-age story."—Booklist, starred review

"The story’s beautiful locales and scavenger hunt puzzles frame a heartwarming story about a transitional period in life, conveyed alongside an affirming, incidental portrayal of Ellen’s experiences."—Publishers Weekly

"The amazing-to-imagine school trip provides an appealing backdrop, but it is the story’s interpersonal aspects that are especially welcome."—The Horn Book

Praise for Ana on the Edge:

A Booklist Editor's Choice Title
An ALA Rainbow Book List Top Ten Title for Younger Readers

"Sass has created dynamic, original characters who are believable and fun to follow… You can’t help rooting for Ana."

New York Times Book Review

"Heartfelt, nuanced and engaging, Ana on the Edge is both an insider's look at the world of competitive figure skating and a sensitive exploration of the protagonist's nonbinary identity. Highly recommended." — Barbara Dee, award-winning author of Maybe He Just Likes You and My Life in the Fish Tank

"A lovely, necessary story of self-discovery and friendship."—Ashley Herring Blake, author of Stonewall Honor book Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

"Ana on the Edge is a poignant exploration of the importance of being seen for who you are. Ana will glide into your heart and open your mind to the richness of the full gender spectrum." — Ami Polonsky, award-winning author of Gracefully Grayson and Spin With Me

"Sass's gorgeous debut fills a much needed void on LGBTQ+ middle grade shelves." — Nicole Melleby, award-winning author of Hurricane Season

* "Sass masterfully balances Ana's passion for competitive figure skating with her journey to coming out...sensitive and realistic." — Booklist, starred review

"Sass renders scenes on and off the ice with vivid descriptions, and writes nuanced, layered portrayals of characters."—Publishers Weekly

"The tone of the story remains hopeful as [Ana] works toward a new understanding of herself. The personal connection of the author, himself a figure skater who identifies as nonbinary, to the story is evident within its pages in both the nuances of figure skating and Ana's interrogation of gender."—The Horn Book

"Vulnerable and affirming."—Kirkus Reviews

"Diane Chen gives a moving performance as Ana Jin, a tween figure skater whose discomfort with a new princess-themed skating program forces Ana to realize she's nonbinary. Chen's most remarkable skill is their ability to take listeners on an emotional journey. Throughout, Chen gives this important story the emotional landscape it deserves."


Product Details
ISBN: 9780316506175
ISBN-10: 0316506176
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 30th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English