A quirky nocturnal visitor offers a confused 16-year-old the superpower of his choice.
Everything is suddenly different for Skipper, a New York City teenager; less than a week after his mother’s death from cancer, he wakes up in a hospital bed after suffering what his doctor calls a “life threatening” asthma attack and finds that someone is in the room with him—a strange man wearing a sombrero, a horizontally striped suit and mismatched socks. The odd stranger introduces himself as Hal and offers Skipper any superpower he would like, under the assumption that he will use it to make the world a better place. Unsure which power to choose, Skipper agrees to think about it and drifts off to sleep, bringing the surreal conversation to an end. The next day, Skipper isn’t sure whether the encounter had actually taken place, or whether it was brought on by the strong asthma medication his overprotective mother had always been wary of his using. But when Hal continues to visit Skipper at night, the teenager mulls over his superpower options in earnest. Meanwhile, Skipper, along with his best friends Albert and John, must negotiate all the social and physical hazards that come with being the relatively uncool kids at their exclusive private school, while Skipper deals with a crabby, emotionally distant father, an eager love interest and, most importantly of all, the freedom and responsibility that comes with life without his overprotective mother. This book presents a humorous yet poignant account of a young man’s first brush with adulthood, featuring well-rendered, believable characters. The prickly relationship between Skipper and his father is especially well done, and the scenes between Skipper and Hal utilize peculiar dream logic to good effect. There are moments that are slightly out of place—an encounter with a bully at a dance, for instance—but overall the plot flows nicely. The book’s simple prose and lighthearted tone make it a pleasure to read, and, combined with its universal themes, suitable for young readers and adults alike. The fact that the humor tends toward the goofy only adds to this book’s considerable charm.
A touching, funny novel perfectly suited for anyone who is or ever has been a teenager.