Clark Sherman’s life is sent into upheaval after his dad’s promotion leads to a cross-country move he doesn’t want to make.
Rightfully so, as the moment the white boy arrives on his first day at Festus Middle School in early 2005, he encounters the first dose of bullying—which only gets worse. To make matters worse, the school counselor places him in eighth-grade remedial classes instead of advanced classes due to a foul-up in his computerized records. (For some reason, his parents aren’t included in that conversation.) Ostracized from Day 1, Clark’s one solace is his obsession with the TV show Star Survivors and all things Star Wars, which provide the sci-fi lens that he uses to navigate his daily life and that inform his quirkily stylized narration. Fate takes a hand when he meets white Les and Asian-American Ricki, both Star Survivors fans and both also targets of the rampant bullying at Festus, and the three new friends put their heads together to find a way to escape the daily terror. Merschel gamely attempts to address endemic bullying that’s facilitated by school administrations to protect favored students (in this case, athletes). The weak spot of this story lies in the very beginning, when the author unconvincingly removes Clark’s parents from active involvement, a plot-driven move that won’t ring true.
Touching despite contrivances, and readers will find themselves rooting for Clark, Les, and Ricki. (Historical fiction. 10-14)