I was hesitant to read this novel. I don't know why. I loved The Wednesday Wars, but there was something about this novel that turned me off. It could have been because B&N was pushing it hard in their stores, and they do not do that for all their books (hey, I'm a teacher; I like fairness). So, while spending time at the library I saw it and thought, "Why not?"
What a great coming of age novel rife with anger, angst, family, and friendship. Doug is a middle schooler who just wants to fit in and be normal. But Doug's life is anything but normal - his father is abusive, his oldest brother is returning from 'Nam, and his middle brother is being accused of thievery. To make matters worse, the principal is no fan of his; the PE teacher is no fan of his; actually, it seems none of the teachers are a fan of his (except one). These cause more than one headache in Doug's life in a new town. After all, it's hard to make friends and develop trust when everyone thinks your brother is a thief and that you are a skinny thug; however, Schmidt does not leave his audience without hope: he offers us a librarian, a playwright, and a girl who will open doors and change Doug's life forever, whether he likes it or not.
But through it all, Doug is able to gain trust and form friendships with just about everyone in town: Lil, classmates, teachers, and librarians. As a matter of fact, it is at the library that Doug really finds out who he is...someone worth it. This book exemplifies the adage that "it takes a village to raise a child."
This book would appeal to both girls and boys. It would be a great recommendation to all students, and it would be a great realistic historical novel to add to the reading curriculum.