Benny navigates the treacherous waters of seventh grade with wit and sarcasm.
Dubbed “Mr. Negativity” by his little brother, he follows in his dad’s footsteps in always expecting the worst, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any fun. He and his two best friends test new vocabulary from the thesaurus each day at school, where a girls-vs.-boys divide arises. Benny is chosen as the boys’ champion in a poetry competition against the girls, led by his nemesis: know-it-all Claudine. Meanwhile, Benny’s dad has been out of work and just can’t find a job, his mom is unrelentingly positive, and his grandpa is slowly losing his mind. This second middle-grade novel from the author of The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr., AKA Houdini (2012) offers richly developed side characters and a true-to-life voice in Benny’s smart-mouthed but still-naïve perspective. His Irish family’s antics (the “Alvarez” is some long-lost relative) carry the story engagingly for readers with only the lightest of plots.
This friendship story will appeal to word nerds and those that tolerate them, and it may even produce some tears under cover of humor. (Fiction. 11-14)