A portrait of the author as a seventh-grader who’s a little more sensitive but otherwise not much different than most.
In his acknowledgements, novelist Brockmeier (The Illumination, 2011, etc.) categorizes this as an “odd little memoir-novel-thing,” which serves as an apt description. It is a coming-of-puberty account of the seventh-grade school year, one that finds friends turning to bullying, acquaintances becoming friends and girls remaining unattainable. “Kevin is good with stories and always has been,” he writes of the protagonist of this narrative, the only character who is fully developed; he’s as self-conscious as most adolescents are during a stage of such tumultuous change. He has spent the summer with his father and returns to the home he shares with his mother and brother to find that everything has changed: music, slang, activities, allegiances. Of course, that will all change and change again, and those he considered his friends will ridicule him the most, finding “the softest tools they can use to hurt him,” a milder form of what would now be recognized as bullying. “He has always been the kid who cries too easily and laughs too easily,” writes Brockmeier, but “he is trying hard not to be him anymore, that kid.” The pivotal chapter takes the nonfictional form of magical realism, anticipating Kevin’s future, putting his (then) present crises in perspective and offering him a choice that could change the course of his existence. Otherwise, it’s a book about coming to terms, accepting that “it’s too late for you to become a different person. You’ll never be tall, and you’ll never be strong.” But he will become a writer, which is what he was even back then.
Often charming, occasionally moving, but mainly a book about not much that hasn’t happened to pretty much everyone and which pretty much everyone has survived.