MIDDLE GRADE REALISTIC FICTION : Susie B. Won't Back Down by Margaret Finnegan


Susie B. has a lot to say. Like how it’s not fair that she has to be called Susie B. instead of plain Susie. Or about how polar bears are endangered. Or how the Usual Geniuses are always getting picked for cool stuff over the kids like her with butterflies in their brain. And it’s because Susie B. has a lot to say about these very important things that she’s running for student council president!

If she’s president, she can advocate for the underdogs just like her hero and fellow Susie B., Susan B. Anthony. (And, okay, maybe the chance to give big speeches to the whole school with a microphone is another perk.) But when the most usual of Usual Geniuses also enters the student council race, Susie realizes this may be a harder won fight than she thought. Even worse, Susie discovers that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t as great as history makes it seem, and she did some pretty terrible things to try to help her own cause. Soon, Susie has her own tough decisions to make. But one thing is for sure—no matter what, Susie B. won’t back down.

“Susie is energetic, breathless, enthusiastic, and genuinely, charmingly funny.” —Kirkus Reviews

A Junior Library Guild Selection


Margaret Finnegan is the author of the middle-grade novels Susie B. Won’t Back Down and We Could Be Heroes. Her writing often focuses on themes on inclusion, hard choices, and being true to yourself. She also makes a really good chocolate cake. To learn more, and to download free discussion guides, visit MargaretFinnegan.com.

Twitter: @FinneganBegin

Instagram: @finneganbegin

Check out the fun mock newspaper, The Susie B News--available for download here!


Susie B., 5th grader, wants to be student council president for a number of reasons.  She wants to give speeches, lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, fight for fairness, be the boss, and receive eternal glory.  Of course, the student council president doesn't actually do most of those things, but Susie B. is determined to make a difference.  Despite her 'butterfly' brain, Susie B. and her friend Joselyn think they can win the election even up against what Susie B. calls 'the usual geniuses', the students who seem to be the teacher pets and are good at everything.  But her parents and teacher are concerned by her announcement that she intends to run.  And her decision to fight for polar bears in her application essay doesn't go over real well.  As Susie B. works on the hero project her teacher assigned her to do, she starts writing about her life in letters to her hero, Susan B. Anthony.  Complications arise when the election turns nasty, Susie B.'s friend, Joselyn starts to hang out with the 'mean girls', and Susie B. finds out that her hero, Susan B. Anthony didn't always behave like a hero.  Can Susie B. come to terms with the challenges in her life or will her motto (a quote from Susan B. Anthony) that "failure is impossible" explode in her face?  Finnegan has written an interesting take on the school election trope.  While I'm a bit tired of the school election trope, especially since many elementary schools don't have elections, this one is different enough to stand out in my mind.  Susie B. and her 'butterfly' brain make for a lively character, even though many of her ideas aren't realistic, and she makes plenty of poor choices.  But as Susie B. discovers, people who make mistakes can still do heroic things and that makes Susie B. a character I can root for whole-heartedly.


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