Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Source: I won a copy from LibraryThing
The main characters in this story are like many of my middle schools students. They want to fit in, and be accepted by others in school. Looking and acting different make that difficult. Associating with someone who is different is just as bad. The main character Kieran has been trying to be part of the “in crowd” since his best friend moved away. He is always on the fringe as if he just isn’t quite good enough. It is usually these kids who get into trouble by going too far to fit in. In Kieran’s case, his difficulty fitting in just got harder. His cousin Bon, whom he’s only met once before and doesn’t really like, shows up at his school and his home. Kieran’s friends Mason and Lucas make fun of Bon for his long braid and his not as nice clothes. Bon seems unfazed. He doesn’t care about fitting in. Things get tougher when Julia the new girl that Kieran has a crush on, starts hanging with Bon. Kieran really feels betrayed. He joins in the bullying of his cousin.
Things aren’t always what they seem, and this author did a wonderful job of showing that. Bon is a character I not only felt so sorry for, yet admired. He had his eyes set on where he wanted to go in life and kept his head up as he headed that way. He was a true friend and cousin. We learn more about Julia and her secrets as the story progresses and see how and why Bon and Julia became such good friends. We have all had that one black sheep in the family that we didn’t want to acknowledge. This book made me look back at when we were younger and how I treated that cousin. My treatment of them may not have gone to the extremes that Kieran’s did but I was just as guilty. They are someone I now look up to and admire.
I think one of the reasons I liked this book so much is because I can see the value of reading it to my students and having it on my shelves at school. I also love books that take me back to my own childhood and show me how I was not much different than the character,s and teach melessons I should have learned long ago. Yes I can say I learned a lot. I am currently dealing with one of those black sheep in the family and realized I was headed the wrong way. This book was a great reminder. It is a great thing when a children’s book can teach a lesson to an adult. Because after all, we all want to fit in. This book looks at the dynamics of “family”, bullying, and jealousy. This is definitely a book I will tell my school librarian needs to be on our shelves.