27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
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?
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2005
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. The lardbars, fairies, beanpoles, geeks, greasers, know-it-alls, and the others excluded from normality will never be looked at the same way again.
It will touch your heart, bring tears to your eyes, and bring laughs to your throat. Maybe someday, because of this book, you can walk down a hallway at school and be immune and deaf to the labels and terms that divide the class.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2002
I read The Misfits just last month, and I can't stop raving about it! I love the way that everyone can relate to at least one of the characters in this story. I found it easiest to relate to Bobby, because I am overweight myself, and I get teased a lot about it. Though I am only in 8th grade, I can understand the storyline, and find this incredible book to be a real inspiration to the world. It made me want to take back every name I ever called a kid. James Howe, I think this is your best work yet!!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2005
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2009
The reason i started to read this book was because of my language arts class which made me think that the book was going to be a boring dud. I was pleasantly surprised to find that throughout the book each chapter was laced with humor and realism. It completely captured what life is like as a middle schooler, not what a forty-year-old man perceives it to be. Although I could not fully relate to the charcaters i felt as though they were my friends not just a group of kids. My favorite charcter was Joe for his adorable sense of humor, keen sense of pop culture, and boldness. This book is full of struggles, differences, confusion, love, and most of all amusement inside a middle schooler's life.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2008
"The Misfits," as you probably know, is about four twelve-year-old outcasts--Bobby, Joe, Addie, and Skeezie--who are teased and called names at school. They decide to run for student council on a third party ticket--the "No-Name Party."
That's the plot, but it doesn't really tell you much about the book. The plot, in this case, is really secondary to the kids growing up, getting over crushes, dating, and more. Because the four main characters are used approximately equally, there is something for everyone to relate to. Addie is too smart, Bobby is overweight with a dead mother, Skeezie's father abandonded him, and Joe is gay.
I first read this book when I was eight. Back then, I had never even *heard* of gay people. So "The Misfits" was my first exposure to GLBT people, and I'm happy to say it does an excellent job. Joe is a fundamentally good kid, with a supportive family, friends, and even (eventually) a boyfriend. He teaches kids that it is okay to be themselves, and he teaches how hurtful it is to discriminate based on anything. At twelve, that is something that everyone needs to hear. I've loaned this book to my two younger brothers over the years, and they have taken from it the same lessons I have.
One thing you should note is that the kids in the book often act and talk older than twelve. Bobby, for example, is a tie-salesman who helps support his father. Addie refuses to say the pledge of allegiance to make a stand for "liberty and justice for all." The gang works on relating racism to other forms of discrimination. This makes for a compelling read, but it might make it hard for some younger kids to relate. That is the only thing that stops me from marking the full five stars.
I'm sixteen now; it's been eight years since I first read this book. Still, the characters and lessons remain with me. That's something I can't always say. If something tries too hard to make me believe something, I tend to tune it out. This isn't the case here; The Misfits is a story that just happens to have a lesson.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2005
James Howe, a brilliant writer who expresses his true creativity in this book, The Misfits. He explains the lives of four misfits who have grown up with being called names. They all stick together and call themselves the Gang of Five even though there are only four of them! Now they are tired of it and they are all going to run in the 7th grade student council elections. Addie Carle running for president has been called many, many names do to her extreme height: beanpole, skyscraper, Godzilla etc... Her mind is all about politics and will fight for what she believes in. Joe Bunch is running for vice president. He has it the hardest and has been called the most names out of the Gang of Five because he has been called fairy, queer, tinker bell etc.... Joe is in fact gay and the kids in school don't let him forget it. Skeezie Tookis is running for secretary and he isn't the "cleanest" person. Mr. Howe describes him eating doesn't sound pleasurable and he dresses like a bum. Skeezie has been called Ree-tard, Guinea, Greaser etc... Bobby Goodspeed who is the narrator of this book was the one who thought of putting a stop to the name calling, he learns that with teamwork and believing in yourself anything can happen even the unimaginable. He discovers that beneath his boss Mr. Kellerman he isn't really a "killer man" that he actually does have some heart. Bobby has been called fat boy, blubber, fluff (b/c of his fluff sandwich) etc... The Gang of Five sticks together through the election and after, they touch others hearts who have been called names and those who call others names. Howe expressed his true feelings about name-calling and it is a great and most valuable read, suggested for ages 10+.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2009
My 7th grade class finished this book in about two weeks because it was impossible to stop turning the pages after we started reading. I personally really loved this book because the plot was so original and it also had many meaningful messages plainly set in the story, such as accepting people's differences and the loyalty of friends. The main characters, Bobby, Addie, Joe, and the Skeeze, are misfits at school because of different "flaws" that make them stand out, and other students constantly make fun of them and call them names. Shunned as outcasts, they have joined together to become The Gang of Five. I think everyone has felt like a misunderstood misfit at times and will relate to some of the experiences shared by this group of friends. I also related to the 7th grade time setting. My class was reading it out loud and sometimes it was hard to keep reading because we were laughing so much. I definitely recommend this book to others and would love to read the sequel!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2003
Best friends Bobby Goodspeed, Addie Carle, Joe Bunch, and Skeezie Tookis-often referred to as Fatso, Beanpole, Fairy, and Loser by other students at Paintbrush Falls Middle School-know that there's more to them than the name-callers realize. Tired of being invisible and disrespected, they decide to shake up the social rules of middle school and seek to put an end to the hurtful practice, not just for themselves, but also for the good of the student body. The novel, told in the present tense and first person narrative by Bobby, details their crusade to win the school election as the No-Name Party, while fretting about love and crushes, mean bosses, and cold fries along the way. As a narrator, Bobby makes witty observations about himself and other people around him, and brings to light some of the most humorous and most painful aspects of early adolescence. He and the Gang of Five-as he and his friends call themselves-are a likable cast of characters, demonstrating loyalty, a keen sense of humor, and level-headedness. The transcripts of their weekly Forums, held at the Candy Kitchen, will have the reader laughing out loud. The only shortcomings in the book are its frequent references to pop culture icons, such as RuPaul and Madonna, who may become forgotten within a few years, and the undecided nature of Bobby's voice. Although the use of the present tense suggests immediacy, Bobby's voice occasionally takes on the perspective of an adult looking back upon his adolescence. The epilogue is slightly confusing, leaving the reader wondering if these events have already come to pass, or if Bobby is merely making predictions. Otherwise, this novel is an excellent choice for middle school readers, with appeal for male and females alike.