My daughter commented that she could not believe how fast we read this book. Usually, I try to stick to one or two chapters a night as my 7-year-old goes to sleep, but more than once I was tempted to give her a little shake to wake her up so we could read some more! Yes, it was just that good. Once last week she woke up in the night not feeling well and could not go back to sleep so we got out the book and read it with a flashlight under the covers while my husband slept on blissful unaware!
I have to confess that my daughter selected this book and I was not initially all that enthusiastic. Ignatow's writing style though just draws you into the mystery she crafted. The author creates 4 amazingly well-developed characters that each represents a stereotypical "type" of student - the nerd, the outcast, the popular kid, and the artsy kid. As an adult having lived through middle school, it is easy to relate to this diverse group who are generally oil and water to each other. Watching them be forced to work with each other and look beyond the stereotypes made for an exciting plot and a great life lesson too. Each of the characters understood that they were not just the way other people perceived them and yet were not mature enough to understand that the inverse was also therefore true; the other students were more complex than a confining stereotypical box. There is also a fifth character, Jay, who is largely considered the school's oddball and is Nick the nerd's best friend. He is really one of my favorite characters. He is blissfully unaware of what others think about him which allows him more freedom in many ways since he is unfettered by some of the self-imposed social constraints. He is open and funny and speaks in a overly dramatic fashion. I give you all that background to share one of my favorite lines from the book and really I think, the most important "lesson" if you will from reading this. Jay says to Martina the artsy girl, "You are a very surprising lady, Martina Saltis. Why haven't we ever spoken before?"
Part of loving to read is loving words also. A couple of weeks ago I heard someone use the word schadenfreude which means to enjoy someone else's misery or misfortune. I looked the word up and then checked online to learn how to pronounce it correctly. The word seriously rolls off the tongue! My daughters and I have been saying it to each other at random times all week and my youngest even made up a song using the word! Well, you cannot imagine our surprise when on page 63, Farshad, the outcast, is experiencing a sense of schadenfreude when Cookie, the popular girl, gets into trouble on a school field trip. I could not believe this word I had lived my whole life without hearing until the week before showed up in a middle grade book! My daughter and I both did a happy dance and then she called my mom to tell her!
Overall, we loved this book but I would be remiss if I did not warn you that this book ends in a cliffhanger. I personally hate cliffhangers and generally wait until all the parts have been published before reading them. I often knock off a point in the review if a book ends in a cliffhanger and I was not warned. This book really is too good for only 4 stars so I am leaving this as a 5-star albeit a slightly disgruntled 5-star. The next book is due May thirtieth. My daughter and I both agonized over that a bit. I had my 7-year-old calculate exactly how many days until then so I guess it was not a complete loss!