Last Chance Academy: A Study in Secrets (1)

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Aladdin, March 11, 2025

Only Murders in the Building meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library in this action-packed novel about a girl pulled into a mysterious treasure hunt at her new boarding school.

Ever since her mom passed away, twelve-year-old Megumi “Meg” Mizuno has been spiraling. After too many low grades and cut classes, she’s been expelled from school—apparently, everyone else has moved past her grief and expects the same from her. Her dad secures her a spot at the prestigious Leland Chase Academy, a boarding school in the middle-of-nowhere New York, called the Last Chance Academy by its student body. If Meg can’t make it work there, she’ll be forced to live with her horrible aunt.

At first, Leland Chase seems like an average, if very strict, boarding school, though Meg tentatively warms up to her roommate and some of their classmates. Then, one night, a mysterious envelope appears under her door, inviting Meg and her roommate to participate in a scavenger hunt. The only rules: don’t get caught by faculty or staff and no cheating. The grand prize? A luxury stay at a fancy resort in California. And after learning her dad has plans to sell their family home—with all its memories of Mom—Meg knows she has to win the competition and use the trip to convince Dad to stay.

Thanks to her mom, who taught her how to solve ciphers, Meg has a knack for puzzles she uses to get ahead in the hunt. But she quickly learns that her classmates seem to have their own sets of skills keeping them in the competition. And as they get deeper in the game, Meg and her fellow competitors realize the anonymous creator has their own agenda…and LCA isn’t quite what it seems.

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On the Block: Stories of Home

Edited by Ellen Oh, Crown Books for Young Readers, October 22, 2024

From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes an inspiring middle-grade anthology that follows the loosely interconnected lives of multigenerational immigrant families, the residents at the Entrada apartment building. Edited by Ellen Oh, a founding member of WNDB.

“The beauty of their shared home does not come from any single person, but instead from the sum of their experiences” -Meg Medina, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

12 Families. 12 Cultures. 1 Building.

Welcome to the Entrada, home to these everyday Americans, including

  • the new kid on the block, who is both homesick and curious
  • a Popsicle-bridge builder, a ghost hunter, and a lion dancer
  • their families, friends, and neighbors from all around the world!

Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, this anthology features award-winning authors Tracey Baptiste, David Bowles, Adrianna Cuevas, Sayantani DasGupta, Debbi Michiko Florence, Adam Gidwitz, Erin Entrada Kelly, Minh Lê, Ellen Oh, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Andrea Wang, and Jasmine Warga. These inspiring stories celebrate family, friendship, culture, and American immigrant life today.


“A superbly rendered love letter to identity and heritage.”

– starred review, Kirkus

This Is How I Roll

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic

“A delightful middle grade rom-com that will leave readers hungry.” – Kirkus Reviews (Read the entire review here.)

Let the good times roll with this rom-com about sushi rolls, secret crushes, and chasing your dreams!

Susannah Mikami dreams of becoming a famous sushi chef like her dad. And this summer, she plans to learn everything about his traditional kitchen. Only he refuses to teach her, and won’t tell her why. Is it because he doesn’t want her to embarrass him in front of the documentary crew filming at his restaurant? Or worse, because she’s a girl? Either way, Sana decides he’s not the only one who can keep secrets.

So when she meets Koji, a cute boy who wants to help her cook up some trouble in the kitchen―and film online tutorials to show the world her mad skills―Sana is all in. But sneaking around means lying to her parents, something Sana’s never done before. Can she take the heat, or will she get out of the kitchen for good?

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Sweet and Sour

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic
  • 2023 Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • 2024 Sakura Medal nominee
  • 2024-2025 South Carolina Book Award nominee

A heartfelt middle-grade novel about ex-best friends, betrayals, and revenge that is best served sour.

Revenge is sweet!

For as long as she can remember, Mai Hirano has spent every summer in Mystic, Connecticut visiting family friends. And hanging out with her best-friend-since-birth, Zach Koyama, was always the best part.

Then two summers ago everything changed. Zach humiliated Mai, proving he wasn’t a friend at all. So when Zach’s family moved to Japan, Mai felt relieved. No more summers together. No more heartache.

But this year, the Koyamas have returned and the family vacation is back on. And if Mai has to spend the summer around Zach, the least she can do is wipe away the memory of his betrayal…by coming up with the perfect plan for revenge!

Only Zach isn’t the boy he used to be, and Mai’s memories of their last fateful summer aren’t the whole truth of what happened between them. But how can she forgive Zach for a betrayal she’ll never forget?

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“Florence writes a delightful tale about close friendship that delves into feelings both positive and negative. (B)eautiful depictions of nature and wildlife as well as nods to Japanese culture, music, and language. An endearing book exploring the ups and downs of friendship.”

Kirkus Review

Full of summer memories and fun activities,… this middle-grade novel is a sweet taste of youthful summer and a reminder of how extreme friendship fails can be.”

– Booklist

“Centering tumultuous adolescence and its effects on emotional health, Florence effectively explores complex relationships between friends and family in this uplifting summer read.”

– Publishers Weekly

“Looking for a sweet summer love story? Look no further than Debbi Michiko Florence’s absolutely fabulous Sweet and Sour – it has all the feels of first crushes, long summers, and the joys of being BTS ARMY!

–Wendy Shang, award-winning author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and The Secret Battle of Evan Pao

“This book gave me Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han vibes but for middle grade. Sweet and Sour is the perfect summer contemporary read.”

–Maleeha Siddiqui, author of Barakah Beats

Nobody does sweet friendships like Debbi Michiko Florence! Sweet and Sour, like her previous works, are full of joy while also tackling the complicated layers that come with friendship and growing up.”

–Jesse Q. Sutanto, best-selling author of A is for Aunties

“Emily Ota delivers a heartfelt, emotionally resonant performance in a story of friendship, anger, mistakes, and the question of forgiveness. A wonderful performance of a moving story about the challenges of friendship and change.”

–Booklist, audiobook review

Sweet and Sour is the perfect middle grade romance. Debbi Michiko Florence explores changing friendships, betrayal, and young love with humor and heart. Prepare to be swept away!

–Kristy Boyce, author of Hot British Boyfriend

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Keep It Together, Keiko Carter

by Debbi Michiko Florence Scholastic
  • A 2020 New England Book Award finalist (NEIBA)
  • Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • 2020-21 ProjectLIT Book Club Selection

A sweet story about first crushes, friendship drama, and finding the courage to stand up for yourself.

Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have… together.

But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving into Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.

Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?

Paperback has a sneak peek chapter of Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai!

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“The moment I saw the cover, my heart soared: an Asian American main character who is every bit the All-American girl. This is the book I wish I could take back in time and give to my tween self. I am so thrilled that today’s readers get to have Keiko Carter.”

–Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor author of A Wish in the Dark

“In this deft, empathetic, and humorous narrative, Debbi Michiko Florence has expertly captured the joy and heartbreak of middle school.”

– Andrea Wang, Newbery honor, Caldecott award, and APALA award winning author of Watercress.

“In her middle-grade debut, Florence creates a fun, accessible story, touching on the realities of middle school, such as friendships, fallouts, misunderstandings, first crushes, and fitting in. The highs and lows of the girls’ friendship highlight toxic relationships versus true friendship. Sweet and smart.”

Kirkus Review

“Tween and teen relationships are explored in this charming middle-grade story by Florence.”


Keep It Together, Keiko Carter navigates friendships, crushes, and self-discovery with such heart–my seventh grade self would have adored this book!”

–Mae Respicio, award-winning author of The House That Lou Built and Any Day with You

“I love this book is because it’s the only one I can think of in which middle grade covers toxic friendships. I predict this book will be a humongous comfort to many readers in the throes of adolescence. Highly recommend to readers in grades 5 and up!”

–Kristin Crouch, teacher

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Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • Amazon Best Books of 2021 Ages 9-12
  • Kirkus starred review

“Heartbreak is for suckers.”

When Jenna Sakai gets dumped over winter break, it confirms what she learned from her parents’ messy divorce: Relationships are risky and only lead to disappointment. So even though she still has to see her ex-boyfriend at newspaper club, Jenna is going to be totally heartless this semester — no boys, just books.

But keeping her cool isn’t always easy. Jenna’s chief competition for a big journalism scholarship is none other than her ex-. Her best friend Keiko always seems busy with her own boyfriend. And cute-but-incredibly-annoying Rin Watanabe keeps stealing her booth at the diner she’s been hiding at every day after school. Rin is every bit as stubborn and detached as Jenna. And the more Jenna gets to know him, the more intriguing a mystery he seems. Soon Jenna is starting to realize that being a loner is kind of, well, lonely. And letting people in might just be a risk worth taking.

This book is full of family drama and first crushes, independent girls, and friendship.

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“Florence offers a tightly written narrative that is as fearless as it is balanced, diving into complicated feelings of distrust and isolation while still offering glimmers of friendship and hope. Jenna’s honest voice shines with clarity, portraying a flawed but relatable protagonist whom readers will root for.

This entertaining read is as complex as it is delightful.”

starred review, Kirkus

“This sweet, mid-grade story is perfect for budding romance fans. Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is a worthy inheritor of the teen romance tradition, and it comes right on time.”

– NPR, Juanita Giles

“A beautiful story about healing from heartbreak, and discovering the strength that comes from opening your heart to others. Jenna is a gem!”

– Jo Knowles, award-winning author of Where The Heart Is and See You At Harry’s

“A sweet, funny novel with lots of Broadway! I loved it!”

– Kaela, age 12

“In this poignant and resonant book, tweens everywhere will identify with Jenna’s heartache, loss, and emotional barriers. Debbi Michiko Florence shows them that sometimes, the best way to move forward is to let someone in.”

– Andrea Wang, Newbery honor, Caldecott award, and APALA award winning author of Watercress

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