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Summary: Tom Bender is a typical seventh grader. His days are filled dreaming about cars and girls and heroic adventures. Normal. The way he likes things. When Jessica Feeney arrives one month after school starts, things change. Almost immediately Tom finds himself thinking about things that never occurred to him, and looking at people in different ways. This is a young adult chapter book about tolerance, acceptance, and compassion.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: I liked Tom's decision at the end of the book. It showed me that he was willing to give up a very exciting event for something more important. This book takes your mind into a whole new world. Sometimes you might not even hear your mom yelling, “DINNER TIME!” I didn’t like how the author described Jessica’s face. I lost my appetite. I think this book is most suitable for kids from ages 10-11. I would suggest someone get it from the library because this book does not have a lot of adventure and super exciting events. You would buy a book as a gift if it has super, extraordinary events. If you feel like one of the characters in the book, you should buy the book.
Adult Reader Reaction: When you pick up this book, be prepared to read it from cover to cover. The story and characters are compelling. If you remember anything about seventh grade, you'll see yourself (and maybe some of your classmates) "way back when." It makes you long for a sequel to see what happens a couple years down the road.
Pros: The story is realistic, uncomfortable in spots, and wholly compassionate and gentle. This is a must-read for pre-teens about to enter middle school, as it is a more mature story to remind them of acceptance. The author’s style of writing is pretty interesting. He writes very descriptively. Our teen reviewer adds, "I have learned a lot from this book. I learned not to judge someone from the outside but from the inside."
Borrow or Buy: Buy! The book is short but its impact is everlasting. It is a realistic snapshot of life for a seventh grader, his friends, and a young girl who is dealing with personal tragedy and trying to fit in.
Educational Themes: You can enjoy and explore this story on many levels. It can be as simple as life in seventh grade, change, and friendship, or you can plumb the depths of family dynamics, compassion and understanding, and understanding victims.
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, school, multicultural, life lessons, middle grade, friendship