Billy March isn’t crazy, but he does get into more trouble than your average kid.
If you’re a kid like Billy, who has a speedy brain and lots of energy, 63 percent of a month is a long time to be grounded. His parents, fed up with Billy’s bad behavior, send him to a psychiatrist in hopes that therapy will help him choose not to doodle in his textbooks or play a real-life video game with shopping carts in a busy parking lot. It’s only a near tragedy, though, that brings Billy and his parents together in a way they never expected. Guerra, author of the teen novel Torn (2012), infuses her younger characters with energy, wit and sensitivity, but her plot too often feels like a lesson. The takeaway message is evident on nearly every page: When children behave badly, it’s usually for a good reason. Davies’ comic strips provide an amusing, welcome diversion from the sometimes heavy-handed narrative. Most readers, children and adults, will cheer for Billy instead of his folks the whole way through, even as he’s acting up; parents who keep a padlock on the snack cabinet are just asking for their offspring to revolt.
Strong characterizations help to balance didacticism; it’s really hard not to like Billy. (Fiction. 8-12)