Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

by Tae Keller (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger, Tae Keller offers a gripping and emotional story about a girl who is alienated by her friends . . . for believing in aliens.

Sometimes middle school can make you feel like you're totally alone in the universe...but what if we aren't alone at all?

Thanks to her best friend, Reagan, Mallory Moss knows the rules of middle school. The most important one? You have to fit in to survive. But then Jennifer Chan moves in across the street, and that rule doesn't seem to apply. Jennifer doesn't care about the laws of middle school, or the laws of the universe. She believes in aliens--and she thinks she can find them.

Then Jennifer goes missing. Using clues from Jennifer's journals, Mallory goes searching. But the closer she gets, the more Mallory has to confront why Jennifer might have run . . . and face the truth within herself.

Tae Keller lights up the sky with this insightful story about shifting friendships, right and wrong, and the power we all hold to influence and change one another. No one is alone.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
A mesmerizing look at bullying and its aftereffects.


The emotionally absorbing story is full of thought-provoking explorations on self-confidence, forgiveness, and friendship while illuminating parallels between alien and human struggles.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

"There are also things I don't know. Like, do some people really just have popularity? Or is it given, or taken, or some combination of both?" Mallory Moss ponders this question as she struggles to find her place in middle school and in the world at large. Jennifer Chan, a new girl from Chicago, has just moved to Norwell, FL, and the rumors about her are already swirling. As Jennifer's neighbor, Mallory discovers that Jennifer's strength and quirky personality, along with her firm belief in aliens, are a recipe for disaster for the upcoming seventh grade year. Jennifer, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a new friend, but is stunned to learn that their budding friendship means nothing at school, because Mallory is one of the mean girls. When Jennifer goes missing, Mallory's world is shaken; she knows that she must revisit the bullying Jennifer experienced to get to the truth and hope it's not too late to save her. Written from Mallory's perspective in chapters that alternate between "Then" and "Now," Newbery-winning author Keller's book contains an exciting mix of mystery, adventure, and science fiction. Readers will bond with Mallory and stay engaged in the well-paced plot. Mallory and Jennifer are both Asian, while most friends read as white. VERDICT With an appeal to a wide variety of readers, this genre fusion is highly recommended for all library shelves.—Tracy Cronce

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Unaccustomed to new kids moving to Norwell, Fla., 12-year-old Mal Moss, who is part Korean and part white, is excited when Chinese American classmate Jennifer arrives. But when Mal learns that Jennifer believes in aliens, she worries that pursuing a friendship will negatively impact her social status at school. Mal's certainty that their classmates won't accept Jennifer's idiosyncrasies are confirmed when school begins and Jennifer becomes the target of harassment at the hands of Mal's best friends Tess and Reagan, both cued as white. After Jennifer runs away, Mal searches for her, using the help of entries from one of Jennifer's notebooks, determined to make up for past mistakes by solving the mystery behind her absence. Keller (When You Trap a Tiger) uses a vulnerable first-person narrative that alternates between past and present to sensitively detail the emotional roller coaster of navigating changing social rules, the anxieties of being oneself, and the process of coming to terms with one's flaws. Its core message about bullying and its effect on both the bully and their target offer a sincere look into individuals' desire for acceptance. An author's note concludes. Ages 8-12. Agent: Faye Bender, Book Group. (Apr.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"I absolutely loved this book! Tae's glorious writing had me hooked and her characters, so wonderfully imperfect and nuanced, felt instantly relatable. She had me wondering which is more mysterious: extraterrestrials, or the beautiful, occasionally-heartbreaking intricacies of friendship." -R. J. Palacio, New York Times bestselling author of Wonder and Pony 

★ "By setting the victim, the missing Jennifer, into the narrative background, Keller directs the flood light onto Mallory and company and aims responsibility (and possible redemption) right where it belongs." —The Bulletin, starred review 

Tae Keller
TAE KELLER was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni's tiger stories. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at, follow her monthly love letters at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date
April 20, 2022

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