A thought-provoking look at bullying and changing friendships, with just a touch of silliness in the mix.
Recommended grade level: 4 and up
Pages: 384 (for ISBN 9780062338204)
Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction
Summary: There was a war. This is where it ended.
I can’t tell you exactly when it changed, when it spiraled out of control like a kite twisting in the wind. When it stopped being something funny and clever and became something else. Maybe there was no single moment. Maybe underneath all the squares plastered on the walls and notebooks and windows there was the same message over and over. We just ignored it because it was easier to stomach that way.
I know what you are going to say: sticks, and stones, and broken bones. But words can kick you in the gut. They wriggle underneath your skin and start to itch. They set their hooks into you and pull. Words accumulate like a cancer, and then they eat away at you until there is nothing left. And once they are let loose there really is no taking them back. (Source)
Who will like this book?: This speaks directly to the complex, painful, and ever-changing nature of middle school relationships, and as such it should strike a chord with a lot of readers in that age group. Those who feel they aren’t “normal” (which, at that age, is just about everybody) will especially relate.
Who won’t like this book?: This book seems to be more popular with kids than with KidLit-reading adults I know. (Maybe adults aren’t interested in revisiting the middle school awfulness running rampant within.) Some readers may find it hokey, and some may want less realism and more adventure out of their reading.
Other comments: Out of about sixty booktalks I gave this May, this was one of the most popular. I don’t know what it was that set this one apart from the others. (I wish I did! I would have bought a lot more copies of it beforehand if I knew to expect it…)
Readalikes: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by the same author has been popular at my library lately, and I think this will appeal to the same crowd. For less of the sad stuff and more of the goofy antics, try The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry or one of Carl Hiaasen‘s books. For more books about bullying, try Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper, The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale, Bystander by James Preller, the classic Blubber by Judy Blume, and of course, Wonder.
Image credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31371228-posted