Things haven’t really changed for awkward San Antonio middle schooler Zack Delacruz.
Even after he helped save the sixth-grade dance in Me and My Big Mouth (2015), the Latino boy still finds it hard to be a somebody at school. More troubling, he remains friendless, aside from the ever loyal Marquis, a black boy. Plus, the school bully, José, can’t seem to stop teasing Zack whenever he can. A new Indian-American girl named Abhi adds a new wrinkle to this well-worn story. Captivated, Zack realizes that he needs to talk to this mysterious girl with ice-gray eyes. Once Anderson establishes the central tension, the story quickly turns into a meandering chronicle of Zack’s misfortune. Of course, everything goes awry for Zack, beginning and unfortunately not ending with him nailing Abhi during a game of dodgeball. Could Zack be cursed? This leap in logic perfectly encapsulates a middle school mindset, mining a lot of laughs from Zack’s amusing attempts to remove the so-called curse. However, the author disregards charged themes, including a side plot about Zack’s parents’ divorce, to give ample space to high jinks. As Zack discovers that it's hard to talk to Abhi, the story keeps marching forward to Fiesta-val, the citywide fall festival. Slapstick set pieces soon trump gentle humor, leading to an out-of-nowhere ending that raises a lot of unnecessary questions.
A bubbly, multicultural sequel with missed potential. (Fiction. 9-13)