After surviving a plane crash, Wayne has plenty to cope with.
He’s lost his voice from an injury, his face is badly scarred, his drill-sergeant Grandpa has moved in, he’s lost the flag that draped his uncle’s coffin, the only reason his girlfriend hasn’t dumped him is because she’s sorry for him, and his father is an abusive loser. In sum, the white seventh-grader has to find a way to cope with the sudden disintegration of his world. In the past, he’s been a veritable encyclopedia of random trivia, useful for “sealing up the cracks of awkward silences.” Without a voice, the trivia doesn’t work. Friends could help, but he has none until he discovers Denny, who’s facing his bar mitzvah but suffers from a dreadful stutter—except when he sings—and, surprisingly, Grandpa, who, Wayne discovers, is slowly dying of cancer. Grandpa starts out as a near caricature of a ramrod-stiff career military man but gradually emerges to readers through Wayne’s developing understanding as sensitive and deeply in tune with the boy’s struggles. Wayne’s convincing narration perceptively captures the tribulations of young teens, and even though his problems aren’t commonplace, surprisingly, the resolutions are. Perhaps best of these is Grandpa’s advice: “Before you go taking the bull by the horns, make sure it’s your bull.”
A fine character-driven tale that slowly grows to a crescendo of satisfaction. (Fiction. 10-14)