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by Arianne Costner ; illustrated by Billy Yong

Pub Date: March 1st, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-11870-2
Publisher: Random House

A middle school jester jockeys with real-life friendships and internet fame.

Despite seventh grader Jack Reynolds’ confident demeanor, he suffers from a paucity of pals—a crisis belying his reputation as Franklin Middle School’s resident comedian and his thousands of MyTube subscribers. When fair-weather friend Zane ditches him for a jock, Jack attends an after-school speed friendshipping session, seeking free doughnuts and fresh acquaintances. He connects with Mario, fun yet phoneless due to an uber-strict mother; Brielle, who’s pretty, smart, and motivated; and Tasha, a brainy, reserved fashionista. The first spark fizzles when Mario’s mom objects to their joint MyTube appearance. When Jack loses his smartphone privileges, a viral video he made with Brielle catches the eye of a MyTube superstar—but Jack drops the ball, leaving Brielle feeling used. Time with Tasha boosts Jack’s math grade, but a Slurpee mishap threatens this relationship, too. When Jack reunites with his phone—and Zane—he makes a final misstep, forcing him to reflect upon and adjust his approaches to humor and other people. Can he find a way to mend his fledgling friendships—or is he destined to become a sad clown? Costner’s nondidactic exploration of digital technology and social media sustains a quiet insistence that lasting connections are sweetened by humor but leavened with sincerity. The book features occasional expressive cartoon-style illustrations. Jack reads as White; there is diversity in the supporting cast.

A kindhearted, authentic outing.

(Humor. 9-13)