When a gun is found near their school, seventh-grade pranksters Thelonius Mitchell and his best friend, Nehemiah Caldwell, must work together to solve the mystery before being blamed for something they didn’t do.
Thelonious narrates: “I’ve seen this movie play out many times before. Something goes missing? Must be one of us. Something gets broken? Must be one of us.” On the other hand, their innocence is not so easily proven given their track record of pranks. How do they manage to pull off such hijinks as borrowing the homeroom teacher’s credit card to pay for online poker? They are severely underestimated as students “warehoused” in the Special Ed room, where the revolving-door administration hopes to “fix” them instead of listening to and supporting them. This old-school system of rules enforced upon them, which Thelonius frequently compares to prison, ignores their gifts, such as Nehemiah’s computer wizardry. There is righteous rebellion within their mischief; as Thelonius explains, “sometimes we have to turn the system on itself for us to get by.” But that gun in the park is much more intense than their usual antics. Yet and still, they ain’t no snitch. Broaddus spins a hilarious, honest tale that sees Thelonius wrestle with circumstances beyond his control and grow into a leader while doing so. His cleareyed narration describes an unjust system too many kids know intimately.
Readers will love watching these two uniquely gifted black boys explore the complicated tensions between impulses and choices, independence and support, turnin’ up and getting through. (Fiction. 8-13)