Saturday, November 12, 2011

Superzero A Gem All Around

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Eight-grader Reggie McKnight's not exactly the biggest mover and shaker on campus. In fact, the last time his smarty-pants Brooklyn school offered him a big, be-somebody moment, he ended up puking all over the principal's shoes. Onstage. With the whole student body looking on. Now, "Pukey" McKnight's determined to keep a low profile in the hopes that his classmates will just forget he exists.

Naturally, Reggie's not planning to participate in the upcoming school elections, but when he gets roped into managing the campaign of a pushy classmate, he wonders if this might the perfect opportunity to make the school elections really mean something. He's been volunteering with his church youth group at a homeless shelter, an experience that's changing his whole outlook on life. The project is so important to Reggie that he wants to recruit more volunteers to help out at the shelter - if only he could convince more of his classmates to show up, Reggie knows it will make a huge difference in a lot of people's lives. And, in spite of himself, he does want to make a difference. The problem is no one else does, especially not Clarke's presidential candidates, who are more concerned about throwing parties and creating scholarships for themselves. If Reggie's going to get his classmates' attention, he's going to have to do something drastic. Something more convincing than spewing onstage.

So much for keeping a low profile. Suddenly, Reggie's got more worries than he can handle. It's not just winning the election that's got him fretting, it's his dad, who's still unemployed; his best guy friend, who doesn't seem to get him anymore; George, the homeless guy who's gone missing; and, of course, pretty Mailone Davis, who's making him nervous with all the attention she's suddenly paying to him. With so much on the line, Reggie can't afford to choke - or puke - but that's just what he feels like doing ...

As generic as 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich may sound, it's not. Or maybe the story is, except, really, it isn't. Oh, I don't know! All I can say is I loved this funny, upbeat novel about a boy who learns to stand up for himself, believe in his own potential, and use his influence, however meager, to make a difference. Reggie is a likable everyman whose voice and struggles will ring true with anyone who's ever trudged his/her way through middle school. Perkovich writes with humor, authenticity, and confidence, making 8th Grade Superzero a gem all around. Did I mention how much I adore this novel? Seriously, people, it's a must-read.

(Readalikes: I should be able to think of a million readalikes, but I can't. Suggestions?)

Grade: A

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of 8th Grade Superzero from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

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