Good news for readers with short attention spans: Picking up this novel is like reading several books at once.
It begins as a realistic story about middle school. The problem is that it’s exactly like middle school. It’s full of pointless gossip, casual bigotry, and romances that stop and start without a second thought. Anyone who’s spent time in an actual middle school may slam the covers shut. Fortunately, 11 pages into the book, Dorothy Wu shows up. Dorothy indulges huge crushes on video game characters. She uses the expression “Holy Table,” because she doesn’t want to glorify “cows” or “smokes” or “molys.” The other characters are never quite as appealing, but as the story progresses, their personalities start to change. The school’s gossip blogger, for example, develops a social conscience. For most of its second half, the book is everything a middle school novel should be: funny, dramatic and quite moving. Then it changes again, turning awkwardly sentimental in the last several chapters. And once in a while, it becomes a jarring, violent story about gang warfare. But no one who reads those sections of the book will ever join a gang.
Some readers will get whiplash, but any time they’re not enjoying the book, all they need to do is flip a few pages. (Fiction. 10-14)