Alexa Moses, Michaela Mason’s Big List of
23 22 Worries (Michaela Mason’s Worries, #1), April 2021, 192 pp., RRP $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781743838754
Michaela is a girl who worries a lot and doesn’t like change. It’s just been Michaela and Mum, living in the city, for most of her life, but after breaking up with “Dodgy Darryl”, Mum has gone for a new start, buying a house in an affordable country town. She works remotely as a copywriter and is feeling happy and secure. Michaela, somewhat less so.
Back in the city, Michaela was used to her very big primary school. She is in Year 5 and has come from a place of good friends and a system she understands for fitting in and being happy. Now she is all at sea; even if setting up her new room just like her old one means the chest of drawers impedes the doorway. Mum understands her daughter very well and is a model of accommodation, tempered by pragmatism, with a good dash of foresight.
But there is no escaping a new school environment. Michaela knows all the problems and pitfalls that may arise. In fact, she expects them all to arise. She is anxious, thus the twenty-three worries of the title, but also very smart, persistent, and driven to do her very best. Unless it is something on her worry list. Then Michaela is stubborn, cranky and inflexible.
First Michaela must deal with the Pretty Posse, as they call themselves. This three-girl clique welcome her to their group. Too late she finds out this place must be earned by doing something against her nature. Thankfully, the author deals with this situation in a way that gives some insight into the three posse characters and allows Michaela to show both her strengths and vulnerabilities. An outlier character, Soo-Min, who is a year ahead of Michaela, enables a circuit breaker to Michaela’s dilemma.
The climax of the story occurs around that number 23 worry – dogs. Through a perfect storm of bad luck, bad timing and bad weather, Michaela is alone at home, with the neighbour’s dogs on the back verandah, when an actual storm of epic proportions hits. The dogs are howling to get in from the storm. Michaela has to act.
I love the way that Alexa Moses presents Michaela as, yes, a very prickly individual, with very special needs, but without labelling her. In fact, Michaela is shown to be capable of significant change and development. Michaela’s first-person narrative is relatable, fast-paced, funny and heartfelt. Most enjoyable.
Reviewed by Marita Thomson