Behind the Scenes: Rough Synopsis for My Latest Middle Grade Novel

Twelve-year-old Amelia Gray has moved schools thirty-two times in the last five years due to her single father’s job as a hotel renovation consultant. Every month, they’re in a new town with a fun new hotel to remodel. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time for making friends. But that’s perfectly fine for Amelia. She loves their “life on the go.” And who needs friends when she has her dad and her super quirky mutt, Biscotti (don’t ask what breed she is, it’s a mystery to everyone!) Besides, what’s the point of making friends if you’re just going to leave in a month? So when Amelia and her dad arrive in the town of Summerville at the end of sixth grade, Amelia is convinced this will be just like every other town.

Except it’s not.

For starters, the Summerville Historic Inn that Dad has been hired to remodel is in such bad shape, the health department had to shut it down! And Dad has been acting really strange since they arrived, pointing out all these “charming” things about the town, like he’s trying to “sell” her on it. And when Dad announces that he wants to stay here not just for a month, but maybe forever, Amelia is completely blindsided. She thought her dad liked their “life on the go” just as much as she did!  But Dad wonders if maybe “life on the stay” could be just as fun. Amelia is highly doubtful. She’s used to leaving towns, not staying in them.

In the end, they make a deal: they’ll stay for the summer. As a test run. And if at the end of the summer, they don’t like it, they can move on. But Dad wants Amelia to take this summer seriously, and really give the town a fair chance. Which is why, in exchange for joining an activity for the whole summer, he offers to buy her the one thing she wants more than anything in the world: A DNA test for Biscotti, which will finally reveal her breed mix.

Amelia is ecstatic. One activity for two months in exchange for solving her life’s biggest mystery!? That’s a no brainer! There’s just one teeny, tiny problem. She has no idea what activity to join. She has no idea what her Thing is. She’s been so busy jumping from town to town, she never had a chance to figure it out. Even in the yearbook from her last school, where there’s supposed to be an activity or club listed next to her name, there’s just a big blank space. Because Amelia is just a big blank space!

Fortunately, she has a plan. She’s going to give herself a reinvention! Just like Dad does with his hotels. Whenever he starts a new hotel remodel job, he always remodels two hotel rooms first, as “test rooms.” He gives them completely different looks and themes and asks the hotel owner which one they like best. Then, he remodels the rest of the hotel to match. This doubles his chance of success.

And Amelia is going to do the same thing. She’s going to give herself not one but two reinventions. Two new versions of herself each with its own look, name, interest, and summer activity. She figures this will double her chances of finding her Thing. Then, once she does, she can stick with that reinvention and activity for rest of the summer.

Days later, “Amie” and “Mellie” are born. Amie loves sports and has signed up to join the summer track camp at the local community park, while Mellie loves journalism and has joined the Summerville Youth Gazette newspaper, determined to scoop out the next big story of the town.

Amelia’s little summer experiment gets off to a great start, until she discovers the real reason her father chose to come to Summerville: it’s the town where Amelia’s mom grew up. Suddenly this random town doesn’t feel so random. Amelia knows very little about her mom because she died when Amelia was born, and her father never talks about her. But when Amelia discovers, from some old yearbooks in the library, that her mom was into musical theatre when she was a kid, Amelia decides maybe it wouldn’t be such a terrible idea to add one more reinvention to the list. After all, if two reinventions double her chances of success, wouldn’t three triple it?

And that’s how Lia—the dramatic actress with the bold fashion sense—is created. Never mind that Amelia has terrible stage fright and the thought of getting up on stage makes her want to throw up. She sucks it up and joins the local summer theatre camp anyway.

It’s safe to say Amelia’s summer is nothing like she expected it to be. Between juggling her three identities and their activities, helping her dad remodel the hotel under the dictatorship of the bossiest, pickiest, most insufferable hotel owner yet, and trying to avoid that annoying boy she met at the park whose dog tried to eat Biscotti for lunch, Amelia is busier than she’s ever been. And things are starting to get a little out of hand. Especially when Amelia discovers that the three girls she enjoys hanging out with the most at her activities all despise each other and now she’s caught in a triangle of drama!  Fortunately, none of them know about Amelia’s other two identities. And she’s determined to keep it that way.

But after a very close call at a town festival, Amelia decides it’s time to choose one reinvention and stick to it. She can’t keep juggling three different identities for much longer. It’s exhausting! But as the days of the summer tick by, Amelia seems to be getting no closer to finding her Thing. And her Dad is still showing signs of wanting to stay here. Like forever. But staying would mean revealing the truth to everyone: that she’s not Amie, the track star, or Mellie, the journalist, or Lia the actress.

She’s just Amelia. And the worst part is, she still has no idea who that is.