BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Posted by John David Anderson [in Shelf Awareness]

In a small Michigan town, four eighth-grade boys make up their own “tribe”: Frost (nicknamed for winning a poetry contest in fifth grade), Bench (because he’s more bench-warmer than active player), Deedee (for his Dungeons & Dragons obsession), and Wolf (because he’s a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart-esque piano prodigy). The foursome’s tightness is all the proof Frost needs to prove his “theory of socio-magnetic-homogeny… [which] basically says that people gravitate toward people who share their interests and whatnot.” And then there’s the rest of their classmates, who just call them “the dork patrol.”

Six weeks into the school year, Rose – who used “her actual name” – arrives at Branton Middle School during a time of great upheaval for the student body – cell phones have just been decisively banned during school hours. Frost presciently takes note: “[S]ometimes somebody shows up in your life and throws everything out of whack.” Suddenly, the boys’ once-perfect square must accommodate Rose, a misfit by many standards. Meanwhile, without access to virtual communication, students have gone analog, resorting to Post-Its tacked up on lockers, bathrooms, even foreheads; too soon, missives turn novelty to cruelty, with disastrous results.

Despite occasional missteps (an eighth-grade boy without any interest in ballet probably wouldn’t rattle off a reference to a pas de bourree), Anderson (Mr. Bixby’s Last Day) maneuvers his “tribe” through school lunches, the infamous Gauntlet, imploding parental relationships, and confessions in disguise. Moving effortlessly from Elizabethan drama to Ghostbusters to gamer Gary Gygax, Anderson’s latest is sure to elicit both recognition and empathy from his intended middle school audiences.

Discover: Four close friends at Branton Middle School face challenges to their relationship when the new kid turns out to be a girl – like no other they’ve ever met.

Review: “Children’s & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, May 5, 2017

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2017


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