The prospect of flunking doesn’t bother Brendan; given what he’s heard about middle school, repeating sixth grade seems the safer choice.
A bright kid and talented artist, Brendan’s thoroughly disengaged—and very good at it, too. Dreamily sketching the Green Man he’s read about in a book of British myths, he tunes out teachers, school bullies, and his elderly, Oprah-addicted foster mother, Mrs. Clancy. The only person Brendan can depend on is Brendan, and soon, a mishap involving a vicious gang leader’s motorcycle forces him farther down the path of self-reliance. Fleeing into the woods, Brendan stumbles into a forest clearing that surrounds a tall tree. The wilderness and the treehouse he builds there become his refuge; the mysterious elderly man who’s been observing him just might be the Green Man. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clancy—not about to let Brendan flunk on her watch—enrolls him in summer school, where he’s surprised to find a sympathetic teacher and makes a friend. Unfortunately, after he’s witnessed their robbery of a jewelry store, his enemies stick close as well. Brendan’s one survival strategy (trust no one) looks less and less viable—even to him. If the plot offers few surprises, the characters more than sustain readers’ interest: Brendan—droll and desperate, uncertain yet inflexibly judgmental—is immensely appealing, and strong secondary characters (Mrs. Clancy especially) are standouts.
Another solid outing from veteran Hahn. (Fiction. 9-12)