Sixth-grader Jake Mathews’ popularity has just fallen “off a cliff and [sunk] to the bottom of the ocean.”
That’s what happens when your dad gets a new job and you’re forced to change schools in the middle of the year. Despite his frequently asserted “AWESOMENESS,” the move from Florida to Maryland is a blow to Jake’s seemingly unshakable self-confidence. But despite an older sister with a propensity for going ballistic and an intimidating search for a regular lunch table, Jake is determined to make the steep climb back up the social ladder. This high-concept middle-grade novel appears to be aimed directly at fans of series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (his new school’s Kinney Elementary). Jake’s first-person narrative looks and feels like a sixth-grader’s real-time memoir, complete with water stains, doodles and examples of Jake’s signature Kid Cards. Though Jake’s bravado is grating at first, readers will easily relate to his desire to fit in and avoid the social land mines that litter most middle school landscapes. Unfortunately, readers are only given a brief introduction to the band of “Misfit Toys” that Jake ultimately befriends. The novel would have benefited had Jake spent a little less time on his own awesomeness and a little more time letting readers get to know his new posse.
It’s an eye-catching read without a whole lot of depth. (Fiction. 9-12)