83. Helen Boudreau, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings
Thirteen-year-old Jade has just had the worst day of her life. It's been approximately one year since her mother drowned, and just when it seems like things might be getting back to normal, she has a day like this: her period (her first ever) starts while she's trying on bathing suits at the mall (a task that would try most people, particularly Jade, who isn't-exactly-skinny). Then, when trying to buy feminine products at the mall drug store, who should she run into but her dad--and the cute boy who goes to her school, with whom Jade has an awkward social history. After a day like that, all Jade wants it to relax in a hot bath.
She must have zoned out for a little, because when she wakes up she discovers that it is actually possible for her day to get worse: in place of human legs, she now sports a pair of mermaid fins.
As Jade tries to get accustomed to her changing body, she has to navigate rough spots in her friendships (her best friend thinks she's acting weird--which she is--but Jade can't tell her the truth as to why she keeps unexpectedly bailing on activities), a possible romance with Luke, the cute boy who unaccountably seems interested, and figure out what *really* happened to her mother that day last summer.
Other reviewers have noted that the book has some cliched characters: the missing mother, the cute boy who likes an ordinary girl, the evil girl at school who's trying to steal the best friend, even the overly-perky best friend. All these are true.
But what saved the book for me was the voice: Jade has such a great, funny, quirky voice that you can't help liking her, and cheering for her.
The book straddles an awkward sort of gap between middle grade and YA--some of the topics (periods, kisses, etc.) are more YA than middle grade, but Jade's voice seems closer to a middle grade voice for me.