Eleven days, thirteen clues, and one kid who won’t give up.

A NC Battle of the Books Selection!

A Publishers Weekly Bestseller!


Cover art © 2018 Gilbert Ford

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is part treasure hunt, part wilderness adventure, and all heart.

—Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee

A tale of adventure, full of mystery and suspense.

—Robert Beatty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Serafina and the Black Cloak

Cricket is an intriguing and complex protagonist, and the plot, full of adventure, treasure hunts, and mystery, will keep young readers hooked.

School Library Journal

A charming mystery with a clever and resourceful protagonist. Cricket’s adventures, driven by a longing to heal her family, are as informational as they are exciting. This book grabs readers from the start and journeys with them though ups and downs and twists and turns that leaves he reader sad, hopeful, and above all, grateful for a delightful story well told.

—June Wilcox, M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers/Kids’ Indie Next List Summer 2018

A masterful debut. Cricket is my new hero, brave and funny and full of heart. Jo Watson Hackl’s new middle-grade novel has art, poetry, and adventure—and I couldn’t put it down.

—Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be

An un-put-downable story about Cricket, a brave, talented and fiercely determined girl, who is not only woods smart but people savvy, and, who, whether you like or not, Dear Reader, is going to steal your heart.

—Tommy Hays, author of What I Came to Tell You  

An unforgettable story about a gutsy girl who will steal your heart.

—Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces

Like my childhood favorite From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is an art mystery, but with a Southern twist. Instead of running away to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, our heroine Cricket Overland hides out in a tree house on the edge of a lumber ghost town that holds the clues to discovering The Bird Room her mother has been looking for for years. This touching coming-of-age novel mixes Southern dialect, woodscraft, puzzle-solving, and art into a wonderful adventure that also delicately addresses the topic of mental illness. Highly recommended!

—Jill Hendrix, Owner of Fiction Addiction

Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl’s debut rolls off the tongue and into the heart easy as warm butter on a biscuit. Protagonist Cricket is searching for her absent mama. She believes that if she goes into the woods where daddy taught her about the land and mama taught her about birds and flowers and painting, she’ll find the answers she’s been seeking. Hackl does a great job of describing Cricket’s adventure through her hunter-gatherer skills—from finding bamboo shoots in the dirt to what to do with a ‘field of clover, dandelion greens, wild onion, and two hickory nut trees.’ Cricket, with her pet cricket (named Charlene) and her unwavering belief in her mama, learns that some people can’t be changed and that life can be both beautiful and cruel. Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale, poignant and as fresh as a spring garden.

Kirkus, starred review

Luminous, funny, sparkling and bright as stream water, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe caught my breath with its beguiling voice, its magical logic, and its tender exploration of what art can mean to those who are lost. This is a book that keeps veering left when you expect it to go right, and one that—in the end—lands you in a different and sweeter place than the one you started in. I adored it.  

—Jodi Lynn Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Midnight at the Electric 

Set in Mississippi…the story is colorfully narrated by Cricket, who comes across as idiosyncratic, intrepid, and wholly likable…..An engaging first novel with a distinctive Southern setting.


A brilliant, utterly absorbing debut. I couldn’t get enough of Cricket’s adventures and Jo Watson Hackl does a remarkable job bringing this vibrant character and her world to life. Totally unputdownable.

—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Map to Everywhere

A heart-warming coming-of-age story.

—Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky

Jo Watson Hackl has created a singular voice in Cricket, her young heroine, and that voice propels us into a poignant story filled with suspense and mystery.

—Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena

Jo Hackl starts Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe with a narrator named Cricket who saves the life of a cricket she names Charlene, and then it’s a full-steam-ahead, no-holds-barred, crazy, magical, hilarious, scary, thought-provoking adventure where Past and Present overlap in ways that Cricket–even with her precociousness–might have never foreseen. Here’s another great young narrator wise, empathetic, and brave beyond her years, with a voice as unique as an Electric City, Mississippi doogaloo.

—George Singleton, award-winning author of The Half-Mammals of Dixie