Book Review | Max and Menna

Title: Max and MennaChildren’s Self-Esteem & Self-Respect Books)

Author: Shauna Kelley

My Review:

After reading the first few pages of Max and Menna by Shauna Kelley, it is easy to see why it was a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year award in Young Adult fiction. I knew I was going to like this book, and it actually turned out to be a lot better than I had expected.

Max and Menna begins in the present day with Max and Menna, twin brother and sister, about to reconnect after many years apart. The past is told from the perspectives of Max and Menna, beginning when they are 8 years old and first meet Nick, an Indian boy who lives on the other side of the fence with his own kind. The three form a strong bond, but as Menna grows closer to Nick, Max feels her slipping away.

The three friends make a pact with one another to leave Mobile, Alabama once Max and Menna graduate from high school. Max and Menna are tired of being abused by their alcoholic mother, and Nick wants to escape the prejudices of their small southern town.

Though I read a finished copy of Max and Menna, I couldn’t help but feeling that this was just a very good rough draft. Certain characters, like Menna and Nick, were strongly developed. Other characters like Max, Lily (Max and Menna’s older sister), and their mother were not. A secondary character by the name of Kay seems to be important, but then fades off and is never mentioned again.

Alcohol abuse and child abuse are very heavy topics, and the perfect reason for Max and Menna to want to leave home and never look back. However, the mother isn’t really a very strong presence in the novel. We hear of her abuse of both drink and children, but we don’t really ever see it. For this reason, I just didn’t feel the sense of urgency for them needing to leave.

Max and Menna isn’t a perfect book, but the transitions between past and present were very easy to follow, the romance between Nick and Menna was perfect, and the overall plot is appealing. Unfortunately I also noticed quite a few typos, and hope that Shauna’s future publications will be treated with a more critical eye.

*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including,, and

more by Jennifer »