Eleven-year-old Lincoln Jones has seen a lot in his time and is struggling to make sense of it all and still fit in in sixth grade.
Almost a year ago, Lincoln escaped with his mother from her abusive boyfriend and moved from the South to a new town where people don’t drawl and an apartment with sagging floors, no heat, and a dying stranger next door. Now he’s the new boy at school, suffering taunts on the playground and the school bus. At Brookside nursing home, where his mother works and where he spends a lot of time, he witnesses food fights, a naked dancing woman, a zombie in a wheelchair, a vampire who seems to be killing off her roommates, and illness and death. It’s enough to make him retreat into his comic books and made-up stories of superheroes, but he comes to realize who the real heroes in his life are and that “real folks around me had stories I’d been completely blind to.” With the help of a nosy girl, a newfound friend, and a school writing assignment, he begins to find his place in the world. Van Draanen’s engaging story is characterized by clever writing (narrator Lincoln drops his G’s), a palpable affection for her characters, and a deep understanding of what’s important about life. Characters’ races go unspecified, leaving readers to make their own inferences.
Readers will love Lincoln Jones. (Fiction. 8-12)