High-energy seventh-grader Ethan Marcus campaigns to be allowed to stand up in school.
By the end of the day, sitting quietly in class is nearly impossible for easygoing Ethan, who has always had what his family calls Ethan Squiggle Disease, but when he snaps and tries to stand up at his desk in language arts, he earns two days of after-school Reflection. Five voices alternate in short, first-person segments to describe the events of the next two weeks: Ethan; his best friend, Brian; Ethan’s sister, Erin; her best friend, Zoe (whose zeal to save the world has been overtaken by her conviction that she’s in love with Ethan); and bad-boy classmate Wesley, who’s furious that his mother has abandoned his family. More caricatures than characters, each has distinctive concerns but none is fully developed. All seem to be default white. Ethan and Erin, though only 11 months apart in age, are wildly different. Ethan takes the world as it comes; Erin compulsively prepares for it and broods over her losses. The emotional arc of this narrative moves them almost completely apart and then back together. The climax comes during their junior high’s Invention Day. The imperfect construction of Ethan and Brian’s desk-evator and the lack of resolution of Erin and Zoe’s invasive-species–eradicating experiment mirror the flaws in this slight story.
Terrific ideas imperfectly executed. (Fiction. 9-12)