Over a decade has passed for readers since The Misfits (2001) introduced the Gang of Five, four seventh-grade outsiders who’ve got one another’s backs; for Bobby, Joe, Addie and Skeezie, a year’s gone by.
It’s Skeezie’s turn to tell the story. Seventh grade is over. While his friends scatter on family vacations, Skeezie looks after his clingy, younger sisters. His father’s never paid child support, his mom works two jobs, and now Skeezie needs one too. He’s kept the stress and fighting at home a secret from the gang. Joe, out and proud, and Addie, smart and determined, have intact, supportive families; Bobby and his widowed father live in a trailer park, but they’re doing fine, too. Addie’s sometime friend Becca has a crush on Skeezie—or does she? Skeezie enjoys the job he’s landed at the Candy Kitchen, working with pretty Steffi, who calls him Elvis and has family and boyfriend problems herself. When his dad shows up out of the blue, Skeezie’s life changes again, and he’s torn between the possibility of a new life and loyalty for the one he knows. Skeezie tells his story from two vantages, interspersing his present-tense account with occasional interjections from his 12-years-older self. If it lacks the spare, lyrical power of Addie on the Inside (2011), Skeezie’s story shares the series’ strengths.
With its companions, it’s a powerful affirmation of friendship, compassion and the right to be accepted for who we are. (Fiction. 10-14)