A debut middle-grade novel that reads like THE LEMONADE WAR crossed with THE TERRIBLE TWO
PAYBACK ON POPLAR LANE
by Margaret Mincks
Viking, Spring 2017
PAYBACK ON POPLAR LANE seamlessly alternates between Peter’s and Rachel’s viewpoints: Peter may only be in sixth grade, but he prides himself on being a professional businessman. Tired of clichéd lemonade stands and armed with new corporate schemes, Peter decides to hire an intern for (by his savvy reasoning) the free labor. When Rachel Chambers, a notoriously quiet sixth grader with writerly aspirations, applies and gets the internship, she quickly discovers that she does not agree with Peter’s make-money-at-any-cost policies. After Peter preemptively fires her, she decides to enter the market and compete with her new nemesis. Rachel vows to create a better model and fair production and battles it out with Peter for the best trade on Poplar Lane. But when Rachel’s goal switches from establishing an upright business to ousting Peter, she unwittingly absorbs his own ruthless tactics. With her success comes strife with her friends and a newfound—but unsettling—popularity. As their rivalry and sabotage tactics become more outrageous, Peter and Rachel ultimately must learn the hard way that “nothing gold can stay” and that money, truly, is not everything.
Interspersed with Peter’s comical memos about ridiculous “business tips” and excerpts from Rachel’s melodramatic and reflective novel-in-progress, PAYBACK ON POPLAR LANE generates fresh hilarity and tension until the very end. But it’s the relatable and authentic characters that really set the book apart. Peter’s flaws arise from a genuine concern about his family’s socioeconomic status, making him sympathetic even at the height of his unyielding entrepreneurial reign. While shy Rachel feels stifled and misunderstood, she comes to find that life in the limelight is not all it’s cracked up to be, either. Ultimately, honesty will give her the confidence to find her true voice.