An 11-year-old boy feels as though everything around him—his best friend, his parents, his world—is changing. And it sucks.
Henry and Max have been best friends since kindergarten, but lately, things have been different. As Max pursues his passion for chess, Henry finds himself alone or, even worse, the butt of Max’s jokes. Henry’s family isn’t much help. Mom is traveling a lot with her new job, and Dad, when he’s not too busy with Henry’s little brother, Sam, can’t (or won’t) see the difference between cool Chad Baker All-Stars and…Dollar Shack Chad Fakers. Can Poppy, Henry’s paternal grandfather, and Rupert, Poppy’s dog, help save Henry’s summer from the “gravitational force of nothingness”? When things go wrong, is it because Henry is a dingus? Larsen’s first middle-grade novel is a familiar coming-of-age story with a bit of an identity crisis, awkwardly straddling the school year and the summer. Unfortunately, Henry doesn’t have particularly well-developed interests or qualities, which is part of his problem but which also may be a problem for readers. He and the majority of characters are probably white, with the exception of minor characters Youssef and possibly Jamal. Still, Henry’s family—a single-income, apartment-dwelling family with a stay-at-home dad—is one not commonly seen in children’s literature, and Larsen does offer some true moments of humor and angst.
Heartfelt if not groundbreaking. (Fiction. 8-12)