A move lands Mark on a rowdy school bus fraught with both social and meteorological peril.
Canadian middle schooler Mark can no longer ride public transit since he’s left the big city. Instead, after changing schools in mid-November, he’s forced to take the hourslong school bus route. His grandmother encourages him to make friends, but Mark sees little in these small-town folk who, frankly, act like wild animals. He faces an irate driver, gross public displays of affection, pyromaniacs, and snack-food projectiles. Plus, there are all these unspoken rules foreign to him. Mark just wants to survive the ride. However, harsh weather conditions make the roads snowy and icy, which lands the bus stuck on some train tracks due to an accident. This title offers a low decoding level of mastery, so it’s accessible to a wide range of readers. Yet the simplicity does not compromise the storytelling or the realistic depth of the characters. In fact, Mark comes to realize that the other passengers are more than they appear. Even he is eventually forced to admit the reason for his move—a bipolar single mother who recently attempted suicide. Bullying and complicated family lives make for empathetic plot beats for this evidently all-white cast of characters.
This is an accessible narrative with a layered reading experience. (Fiction. 10-13)