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The Misfits Paperback – May 1, 2003

125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do a 12-year-old student who moonlights as a tie salesman, a tall, outspoken girl, a gay middle schooler and a kid branded as a hooligan have in common? Best friends for years, they've all been the target of cruel name-calling and now that they're in seventh grade, they're not about to take it any more. In this hilarious and poignant novel, Howe (Bunnicula; The Watcher) focuses on the quietest of the bunch, overweight Bobby Goodspeed (the tie salesman), showing how he evolves from nerd to hero when he starts speaking his mind. Addie (the outspoken girl) decides that the four of them should run against more popular peers in the upcoming student council election. But her lofty ideals and rabble-rousing speeches make the wrong kind of waves, offending fellow classmates, teachers and the principal. It is not until softer-spoken Bobby says what's in his heart about nicknames and taunts that people begin to listen and take notice, granting their respect for the boy they used to call "Lardo" and "Fluff." The four "misfits" are slightly larger than life wiser than their years, worldlier than the smalltown setting would suggest, and remarkably well-adjusted but there remains much authenticity in the story's message about preadolescent stereotyping and the devastating effects of degrading labels. An upbeat, reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality. Ages 10-14.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-8-Howe's versatility, gift for wordplay, and distinct brand of humor have produced books that create an emotional connection with a wide range of audiences. Regrettably, this novel is a misfit. Bobby Goodspeed, an overweight seventh grader who lives with his underachieving father, narrates the book. He works part-time as a tie salesman in a department store. He and his unpopular friends, known as the "Gang of Five," decide to run for student council on an alternative platform called the "No-Name-Party." The candidates must face-off with the administration and opposing parties, and convince their fellow classmates of the damage caused by name-calling. In the process, members of the group learn about love, loss, and the true meaning of diversity. Unfortunately, The Misfits rambles rather than flows. Bobby's long-winded narration is written in a passive voice and sprinkled with only occasional dialogue. When the characters do speak, their formal dialogue (presented as minutes from the friends' Floating Forum meetings) goes on for pages on end, lacking any commentary from Bobby. It is not until the last third of the novel that readers begin to identify with the characters and bask in the success of Bobby's political partners.

Louie Lahana, New York City Public Schools

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 960L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689839561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689839566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Howe has written more than eighty books in the thirty-plus years he's been writing for young readers. It sometimes confuses people that the author of the humorous Bunnicula series also wrote the dark young adult novel, The Watcher, or such beginning reader series as Pinky and Rex and the E.B. White Read Aloud Award-winning Houndsley and Catina and its sequels. But from the beginning of his career (which came about somewhat by accident after asking himself what kind of vampire a rabbit might make), he has been most interested in letting his imagination take him in whatever direction it cared to. So far, his imagination has led him to picture books, such as I Wish I Were a Butterfly and Brontorina (about a dinosaur who dreams of being a ballerina), mysteries, poetry (in the upcoming Addie on the Inside), and fiction that deals with issues that matter deeply to him. He is especially proud of The Misfits, which inspired national No Name-Calling Week ( and its sequel Totally Joe. He does not know where his imagination will take him in the next thirty-plus years, but he is looking forward to finding out.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on December 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Known best for his Bunnicula series, James Howe breaks out from that mold and ventures forth with one of the best books written this year, "The Misfits".
Both touching, cutting edge, real and gutsy, the Misfits in the title are a band of four friends, each one with a trait that society unfairly and immediately judges them on: being too tall, too fat, too gay, too greasy, and all of them too smart for their peers.. : ) The kids band together for survival, security, and to experience something they all yearn for: acceptance.
The story, compelled by the characters needs, is about a schoolwide election, and how the students are forced to join the Democrats or Republicans. Of course, they don't quite fit in either group, and decide to form their own party: initially "the Freedom Party" and then, more appropriately, "The No-Name Party". What follows is stunning, inspirational, heartbreaking, and guaranteed to provoke thought.
The story is written in a very interesting way. Partially prose, partially "minutes" which read like a play, it moves the story along to give a true sense of these kids, and they become very real as we hear their voices. One side plot involving a manager of the tie department didn't quite work, but the story more than compensates by offering us middle school intrigue with many twists and turns.
How many of us at one time or another that we could fit into that group. It's a shared feeling, and Howe brilliantly captures the agony of not fitting in, and the joy of finding a group to fit in with. After all, isn't that we all want?
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Misfits.. I don't even know where exactly to start. You may think the plot sounds a bit childish, four rejected young kids try to make a name for themselves. A name that's not an insult, for once. But it's actually very mature, told by Bobby Goodspeed, the "fat kid" of Paintbrush Falls.

Bobby says that misfits tend to stick together within the hurtful depths of pre-teen pressure. And that's true. Bobby is joined my Skeezie, a rebellious dirty boy; Joe, the openly gay and fashion crazed; and Addie, little miss female-rights-activist. But to others, they don't have names. They're called Greasy, Fairy, Beanpole, and Lardbar.

Once a week, our little misfits meet up for "the forum", where they eat and (mostly Addie) discuss how to change things around, so that their peers can see them for what they are on the inside, behind the sexuality, fustration, anger, and over-eating. They can see their inner beauty, compassion, and intellegence. What really matters.

It's easy to relate to them. It's also very descriptive, Bobby shares all the details so the picture in your mind has no blank spaces. It's also one of the uniquest reads I bet you will ever pick up. Remember how i said they're trying to change? Not only socially, but also.. politically.

Addie decides to create an independent party in the student council election, complete with some fellow misfits: Addie, Bobby, and a popular (and one of very few that are colored) boy by the name of DuShawn.

The battle for president is even harder with the leader of the elections against Addie for her protesting in homeroom.

So join the election that will leave Paintbrush Falls (as well as yourself) speechless and perminatly changed, forever.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although this book is a little young for me, I read it on my younger brother's recommendation and was surprised at how good it was. James Howe has written here a humorous, well-voiced, and interesting story.

The only problems I found were that the characters, while supposedly twelve, seemed older (maybe 14), and the respective conflicts of the protagonists seemed to tie up a little too neatly at the end. However, I'm willing to forgive a little contrivance for a happy ending, especially when the story entertained me as much as this one did.

The Misfits is relatively short (big print: I read it in under three hours just before dinner the other day) but the plot is well-developed. Also, the main character Bobby Goodspeed's voice (as I said) was done well. The book tackles one of the biggest problems faced by (pre)teens, that is, being called names. However, it also deals with the hormones and agonies of that age.

I strongly recommend this, mostly to the younger crowd (say, 10-14, which is what the back cover says anyway) but really to anyone looking for a light, funny story about a couple of...well...misfits.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rachel M. on October 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a middle school English teacher, I am always on the hunt for books with great stories that can also provide fantastic conversation starters in the classroom. I had heard of this book and decided to give it a try. I was floored and found myself unable to put it down. Not only is this book laugh out loud funny, with several unpredictably poignant parts that had me near tears, but it explores issues to which middle school students of all backgrounds can relate. I teach in a school where, thankfully, there is not a great deal of "visible" bullying. Even so, there is no doubt that even in the most "refined" of communities, people are alienated, left out, and called names. "The Misfits" hits this nail right on the head -- the fact that people often do not recognize name-calling and alienation as bullying and the fact that it is not long before those who are being called names begin to internalize those words and accept them as defining who they are. Read this book. Read it with your twelve year old, read it for yourself. Remember that your words can make or break a person's day and that the scars of hurtful language are always the last to fade.
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