The Very Genius Notebooks #1: The Chronicles Of Deltovia by Olivia Jaimes

I’m genuinely starting to believe that some of the best under-the-radar writing out there nowadays is coming from middle grade authors.

Not that Olivia Jaimes is primarily that (or even her real name.) Having gained acclaim for her reboot of the long-running Nancy comic strip, she’s now published her first middle-grade novel under this name, using the hybrid illustrated format popularized by Jeff Kinney with his Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series. And at first this book reads just like those more famous novels, only with a trio of female friends as the centerpiece. But as the story progresses and we discover the truly heavy — but not too, too heavy — stuff going on behind the scenes, it’s clear that this isn’t just a genderbent version of an already successful franchise but something truly special in its own right.

The Chronicles Of Deltovia starts with Mischa, June and Ollie — three best friends who attend Lakeview Middle School — deciding to write a fantasy novel together. They pass a notebook around that they take turns filling out and illustrating, adding comments and notes to each other as they go. At first, it’s very much like every pre-teen’s collaborative effort at writing a fantasy novel (or at least a lot like my own): uneven but with glimmers of greatness. Far more interesting than the fantasy narrative is what we learn of the girls as we go. Mischa is dramatic and dreamy; June is focused, scholarly and often anxious, while Ollie is a kind-hearted jock.

Each girl also has a distinct voice, handwriting and drawing style. Mischa writes action-packed if cliched fantasy with cartoony sketches. June writes detail-oriented backgrounds with the best drawings. And Ollie, well, Ollie has enthusiasm, vibes and a disciplined training regimen. As their fantasy narrative progresses, often mirroring events in the real world, the girls go through not only the usual perils of adolescence but also find themselves facing an unexpected foe and solving an unexpected crime.

I was completely unprepared for the depth of the plot, or for how it got me in the feels. And while this book wrapped up wonderfully, I do have lots of questions that I’m hoping will be answered in the next volume! Most of all, I was really struck by the theme of reinvention that underscored the proceedings, and how it can be either a good or bad thing depending on what you choose to embrace and what you choose to leave behind.

Ms Jaimes’ ability to fully inhabit her characters is breathtaking. You always know who’s in charge of the narrative, and I genuinely could not decide who was my favorite. That said, I definitely identified most with June (to the surprise of absolutely no one who knows me.) I also really enjoyed the supporting characters, and love the excellent diversity representation throughout.

Gosh, I can’t wait to read the next book. This is a truly outstanding series debut that ought to be on every discerning reader’s radar.

The Very Genius Notebooks #1: The Chronicles Of Deltovia by Olivia Jaimes was published September 20 2022 by Andrews McMeel Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including

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