The Real Deal

by Lindsey Stoddard (Author)

The Real Deal
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

"An absolute treasure. Vibrant, charming, and absolutely real." - Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of Operation Sisterhood

Two best friends discover the danger and power of secrets in this pitch perfect standalone from the acclaimed author of Just Like Jackie and Brave Like That.

Not every friendship can be the real deal, but for Gabe and Oliver, that's never been a question.

Until now. Things still feel the same on the surface--they're even making a comic about their friendship--but lately Oliver's acting like he might be hiding something.

And then there's Reuben, the new boy who just moved to town. He doesn't talk--not ever. The other kids say mean things and call him names behind his back. Gabe knows it isn't right--but he and Oliver stay quiet, or worse, laugh along with the others just to keep from standing out.

Through the character he and Oliver create in their comic adventure, the experience they have babysitting twin toddlers, and with the help of a troublemaking seventh grader who gets sent to their sixth-grade class, Gabe begins to find his voice and become the realest-deal version of his own self. But if he does that--can he still hold onto his best friend, too?

Perfect for fans of Lisa Graff and Linda Mullaly Hunt, this novel from Lindsey Stoddard, whose stories were lauded as "remarkable" by the New York Times Book Review, will have fans new and old hooked.

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Kirkus Reviews

The story does a lot of things well, including its subtle examination of masculinity and friendship.

Publishers Weekly

When Gabe's teacher announces that a new student, Reuben, will be joining the sixth grade class, she mentions that Reuben "doesn't speak," igniting curiosity and even scorn among the students. Despite the bad feeling it gives him, Gabe initially laughs along, before checking his gut feeling and beginning to connect with Reuben. Amid Reuben's arrival--and the addition of Rae, a seventh grader sent to join the class until she makes an apology--Gabe works on persuading his protective mother to let him take a summer backpacking trip with best friend Oliver, who seems to be keeping something from Gabe. As a condition of the trip, Gabe's mom asks him to join the school's Nature Club, and the lessons Gabe learns in the club and from the classroom's new students give him the courage to stand up for what he believes, and to be there for Oliver when he needs Gabe most. Alternating with brief interstitials from Reuben's perspective, Stoddard (Bea Is for Blended) employs Gabe's candid and introspective first-person observations, making for a warm narrative of school community and personal growth. Protagonists cue as white. Ages 8-12. Agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. (Oct.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This is a moving story about friendship, family and the courage it takes to stand up to one's peers, a story that drew me right in and kept me absorbed until the last page. An ode to the strength of silence, as well as the power of words. — Padma Venkatraman, Walter Award winning author of The Bridge Home

A brilliant, bold, and beautiful book. Lindsey Stoddard tackles tough, thorny topics with nuance and grace, never once compromising readability or relatability. She is the real deal. — author-illustrator Jarrett Lerner

This genuinely thoughtful and ultimately joyful gem about friendship and the many ways that a voice has power is an absolute treasure. I was rooting for Gabe from the moment I met him and was captivated as he navigated his way through the small moments that have big meaning in middle school life, surprising himself along the way. The Real Deal is laced with humor, and brimming with an abundance of heart — vibrant, charming, and absolutely real. — Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of Operation Sisterhood

Praise for Bea is for Blended:

A little bit coming of age, family drama, sports hype, and school shenanigans all rolled into one for an appealing read. — School Library Journal

Stoddard's characters are fully formed in her latest book, and the themes of family and equality run throughout. Bea is a spitfire of a main character up against an antagonist that readers can cheer against. — Booklist

Praise for Brave Like That:

Family, love, loyalty, friendship, and bravery are tested in this small-town narrative. A great novel for any tween learning to find their own voice. — Booklist

Heartfelt and triumphant. Cyrus's journey toward self-acceptance will inspire readers of all ages. — School Library Journal (starred review)

Help comes from surprising directions in this moving, character-driven tale. With a strong, never-preachy anti-bullying message, this one scores a touchdown. — Kirkus Reviews

A heartrending and compassionate read about how standing up for something can help you stand up for yourself. — Lesa Cline-Ransome, award-winning author of Finding Langston

Lindsey Stoddard creates a highly relatable character in Cyrus Olson then puts him on a perfectly paced journey of the heart. Destination: the bravery to reveal his most authentic self to the people he loves. — Leslie Connor, author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

This exploration of courage has a good strong heart-beat: both in terms of compassion and suspense. — Newbery award winning author Laura Amy Schlitz

Praise for Right as Rain:

This touching middle grade novel addresses the heartache of loss while also providing an insightful, accessible introduction to privilege, homelessness, and gentrification. Honest, gut-wrenching, and hopeful, this is a story about letting people in and discovering you're a part of something larger. — School Library Journal (starred review)

Timely, well-integrated themes, a vibrant setting, and well-drawn, likable characters make this a winner. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Stoddard has a knack for writing strong, feisty protagonists [and] her exploration of grief's grip on a family rings true and tender. A remarkable job. — New York Times Book Review

Stoddard excels at low-key atmosphere and characterization. Rain's an admirably strong and sensitive heroine, and her approach to a tough transition will appeal to many readers. — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Stoddard has written a beautiful story about a resilient girl many readers will be able to relate to, and she gently hits on tough topics, such as death and divorce, in a tender and truthful manner. — Booklist

PRAISE FOR Just Like Jackie:

I was truly moved by this refreshing story about a scrappy young heroine and her struggle to protect her family. — Sara Pennypacker, New York Times bestselling author of Pax

A story about scratching the surface (and welcoming what you find below). It's also a lovely story of acceptance - about what makes a family and how we make our own families, and about embracing our differences." — Ann M. Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Rain Reign

As close to perfect as a book for middle-grade children can get! Readers will cheer for Robbie as she comes to terms with the family she has and finds the family she needs. — Cammie McGovern, author of Just My Luck

A coming-of-age novel as feisty, funny, and forthright as its protagonist. Robinson overcomes obstacles with wit, grit, and a growing compassion for others, showing us that families are what we make them and happiness is found in the simple gifts we take for granted. A rich, rewarding read. — John David Anderson, author of Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Stoddard debuts with a quiet but powerful narrative that gently unpacks Alzheimer's, centers mental health, and moves through the intimate and intense emotional landscape of family—what seems to break one and what can remake it. Validating, heart-rending, and a deft blend of suffering and inspiration. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

This emotionally honest, sensitively written novel confronts a range of difficult topics and offers an inclusive view of what family can look like. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A home-run story that will resonate with all who feel they might not fit into the perfect definition of a family. — School Library Journal

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV035000 - Juvenile Fiction | School & Education
Library of Congress categories

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