From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–“I know what you think. You think I'm fixable, don't you? You want to fix the bad guy.” Readers slowly learn what makes Tod, a self-confessed bully, tick by reading the notebook he writes in (not, he insists, a journal) during after-school detention. He is supervised by Mrs. Woodrow, the guidance counselor, for a school break-in with his buddies (droogs), who increasingly resent that he's gotten this cushy punishment while they are consigned to clean the school grounds. Tod is no dummy. He reads, does his homework, and gets good grades. But he's poor. His mom, a seamstress, does alterations for a dry cleaners (Tod helps), and he tries to stay away from her husband, whom he describes as “unpredictable.” Lacking money for basic necessities like food and clothes, he extorts it from “losers” at school and otherwise tries to keep a fairly low profile. The plot is thin, as Tod gets roped into providing the costumes for a school play written and produced by “that spooky goth girl Luz Montoya.” Still, he is a funny, quirky, interesting character. There are loose ends, but in the end it's not so much what happened, as the fun of getting there, finding out whether Tod is right or not when he writes, “I'm a loser, okay? I was born a loser and I'll live a loser and I'll die a loser. And nothing you do here is going to ever change that.”–Joel Shoemaker, formerly at South East Junior High School, Iowa City, IAα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
After class-bully Tod and his “droogs” get caught vandalizing school property, his punishment is to spend every day in after-school detention writing in a notebook. “About anything?” he asks Mrs. W., his jailer. “Okay. Fine. You asked for it. I’ll write about this desk. I hate this desk.” The classic smarter-than-his-teachers underachiever with a rotten home life, Tod has a real way with words (the way he crashes, then dominates the spelling bee is priceless), and he soon warms to his enforced writing therapy. Some readers might wish he’d stayed a little more bottled up though—his wordy tendencies sometimes drag the narrative—but Shulman establishes a nice voice for him, as Tod rips jokes so dry they can float away and shows some real heart dealing with his less-than-desirable lot in life. Much to his droogs’ horror, he gets involved making costumes for the school play, and his increasingly confrontational clashes with them spell both trouble and growth. An unusual sort of bully redemption story, with patient, not reluctant, readers squarely in its sights. Grades 7-10. --Ian Chipman