I (excuse me) hated sixth grade. So I was hesitant to read a book about Sam, who, “during the first week of sixth grade at Dick Dowling Middle School, they brought me in for tests, and then they brought me in for tests again, and again after that, until I found myself in eighth grade, surrounded by giants and talking monsters with acne.”
I (excuse me) can’t think of anything worse, unless it’s One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes.
But my friend Emily wrote an irresistible little review (here), so I just had to give it a try. And that cover! You stand a good chance of being able to judge YA books by their cover.
Sam is definitely one quirky kid, but I was rooting for him all the way. Plus, I completely understood his journey to create a perfect mac-n-cheese (orecchiete with Gorgonzola, pears, and prosciutto). I couldn’t help wish he’d stand up for himself once in awhile–my own terminal case of sass was well-developed by middle-school–but it made his approach all the more curious. Hoo-boy, was his approach interesting. What a goofball.
The main peripheral characters were his dad–and it quickly becomes apparent that Quirky is genetically linked–an armadillo that may or may not be imaginary; and the indirect cause of his fall in the well, James Jenkins. I laughed out loud when he described the would-be murderer:
“It starts when you’re afraid of things but can’t really explain why.
James Jenkins walks like a murderer. He combs his hair like a murderer. James Jenkins chews Goldfish crackers for a really long time, which is something only a murderer would do.”
Emily was right; it’s a sweet, bizarre little book, and I think I’d easily gift it to the right kid. It had me checking out Andrew Smith’s other works, but it sounds like this one may be the exception in balance. A delightful read that was a pleasant intermission from darker books.