The lives of several middle school children intersect one summer day, as if by fate.
Kelly’s inventive story centers on gentle and quiet Virgil Salinas, a Filipino-American 11-year-old, and is told from several supremely well-crafted perspectives. Virgil longs to find the courage to talk to Valencia Somerset, who is confident, independent, and deaf. Third-generation Japanese-American Kaori Tanaka, Virgil’s good friend and a budding entrepreneur, offers kids her gift of second sight as a professional psychic. Chet Bullens is the neighborhood bully, and he torments Virgil regularly. Though he is immediately unlikable, Chet’s internal dialogue is nuanced, allowing young readers to understand the forces that shape his worldview and to glimpse the insecurity that underscores his behavior. On his way through the woods to Kaori’s house for a reading, Virgil encounters Chet, whose cruelty endangers Virgil’s beloved guinea pig, Gulliver, and ultimately leaves Virgil stranded and helpless. This ordeal spurs the unexpected collision of all the characters. Virgil, alone except for visits by personifications from the dark folk tales often shared by his Filipina grandmother, contemplates how he will become the hero in his own story should he survive. The short chapters, compelling characters, and age-appropriate suspense will hook young readers immediately. Neither Valencia nor Chet is cued racially.
An original and resonant exploration of interconnectedness and friendship. (Fiction. 9-12)