This Seat’s Saved – Heather Holleman

This Seat's Saved by Heather Holleman
Also by this author: The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility
Published by Moody Publishers on June 6, 2023
Genres: Children's

Class schedules, locker combinations, and the play for popularity — middle school is a new world with new rules.

At the start of 7th grade, Elita Brown’s friends enjoy their seats at the popular lunchroom table. Meanwhile, Elita hides in the bathroom. This is not how she envisioned middle school. And her omission from the popular table is only the beginning of her problems. What will she do when she’s terrorized by the meanest girl in school and accused of a crime she didn’t commit? Elita befriends an older couple living in the woods and gains confidence through her project on the red fox. Will Elita find her way and take her seat at the best table? Full of suspense and divine moments, readers will be captivated by this story.

Parents and teachers who loved Seated with Christ can invite their middle school reader to This Seat’s Saved. With great discussion questions and a main character who learns to read her Bible, trust God for the first time, and understand what it means to be seated with Christ from Ephesians 2:6, This Seat’s Saved will help young readers on their journey with Jesus.

This juvenile novel about a girl starting middle school tackles tough themes in relatable ways, exploring the pain of changing friendship dynamics and social exclusion. In this story, Elita feels cast adrift after her best friend sidelines her at lunch and tells her, “This seat’s saved.” As her friend pursues new interests and a new friend group, Elita deals with emotional pain, worries about measuring up, and tries to figure out how to fit in. At the same time, she is also working on a project for her nature-focused elective class, studying fox behavior and getting to know the other people in her group. Although the book has some very heavy moments, it also has fun and exciting chapters as Elita grows from her new opportunities and builds new relationships.

I found this story very compelling, and I often found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. Previously, I had enjoyed one of Heather Holleman’s nonfiction works for adults, and I am very impressed with her fiction writing as well. The characters feel real and convincing, and the book also has a great sense of place, with lots of convincing regional details from Pennsylvania, the author’s home state. Holleman also incorporates Christian elements in a way that feels authentic. This could have been preachy, but the message is integral to the plot and is a compelling part of the story. For example, when Elita’s mentor shares spiritual truths with her from Ephesians 2:6, this unfolds as a very natural conversation, and Elita’s growth at the end of the story feels real and hard-earned.

This Seat’s Saved is a great book for middle school girls. Holleman writes with a deep understanding of what it’s like to be in middle school, and she includes just enough contemporary cultural details for the story to seem convincing, without trying too hard or going overboard. This will appeal to the target audience, and the themes are so universal that many older girls and women will enjoy this as well. This is an excellent book for mothers and daughters to read together, and it would also be a great choice for book clubs, especially since there is a list of thoughtful, open-ended discussion questions in the back. I really enjoyed this book, and it would be great if it became the start of a series. I would love to see Elita grow through the rest of middle school and onward.