Vrabel’s latest middle-grade novel explicitly remixes John Hughes’ iconic 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club, for the Instagram generation.
Five eighth-graders report for all-day detention for pranks they committed on the last day of middle school. Each comes from a different clique: Jason, an artistic white “Nobody”; Lilith, a talented Indian-American “Drama Queen”; Rex, an emo white “Rebel”; Wes, a charismatic African-American “Flirt”; and Ally, a high-achieving white “Athlete.” They gather at an assisted-living home, where their strict principal introduces them to his sister, who runs the facility. The students are then each paired with a resident at the home, and they are also assigned an essay, to be completed by the end of the day. As in the film, these five teenagers who believe they have nothing in common bond over the course of the day as they open up and reveal their struggles: divorce, poverty, racism, bullying. And, similar to the film, the novel ends with a jointly written essay (“But after today, we just see each other. And we’re going to change things, make them better, starting now”) signed “The Reckless Club.” The third-person narration mostly alternates among Jason, Lilith, and Wes, with Ally’s and Rex’s perspectives much later. The novel is tender, and it goes where Hughes’ film never could have with its multicultural cast, but it’s slow to start and cannot escape a preachy feel as the kids open up.
Mostly accomplishes its feel-good goals. (Fiction. 10-14)