Under a cloud of suspicion after the death of his best friend, a boy with a “trifecta of troubles” continues as best he can.
Lt. Baird is sure seventh-grader Mason Buttle knows more about the death of Benny Kilmartin than the story he’s told over and over. Now he’s writing it, with the help of speech-recognition software in the school social worker’s office (a process that is reproduced with unlikely accuracy). In a moving first-person narrative, Connor reveals a remarkably distinct and memorable character. Loyal and good-natured, Mason is large for his age, highly dyslexic, abnormally sweaty, and the regular target of bullying neighbor boys. He feels his emotions as colors—green for stress, shades of pink for happiness. There hasn’t been much pink in Mason’s life in the 16 months since Benny’s accidental death, but now there’s a new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, and the bullying neighbor’s dog, Moonie, who prefers Mason. Using Mason’s conversations with the detective and his voice-to-text storytelling, the author weaves the back story into a narrative of redemption chronicling his growing friendships. The climactic revelation reveals the gaps in everyone’s understanding of the event and propels his struggling, white, apple-farming family—grandmother, unemployed uncle, and the stray, shopping-addicted young woman his uncle brought home—to make some needed changes.
Connor’s gift for creating complex characters extends to the supporting characters and makes this a compelling read. (Fiction. 9-14)