From School Library Journal
Grade 6-8–Joe's teacher asks his seventh-grade class to write an alphabiography throughout the year, presenting themselves and their lives in entries from A to Z. Joe's essays begin and end with friends, from Addie, a long-time pal and confidant, to Zachary, a new student who, like Joe, has a unique approach to life. Throughout, Joe demonstrates that he truly is a one-of-a-kind kid, mostly comfortable with himself but still struggling with common adolescent issues. It's difficult for him to relate to his athletic brother, and he misses his much-loved Aunt Pam, who moves to New York City. He also comes to grips with his sexuality, questioning gender expectations and traditional roles as he realizes he is gay. Because he is different, he is tormented by Kevin, who calls him a girl and faggot and falsely accuses him of kissing his friend Colin (a jock not yet ready to come out). Joe's narration always feels honest if not entirely credible. He and his family accept his emerging sexuality rather easily. While a range of responses is depicted, the characters seem to come around too quickly. For example, when the principal is informed of Kevin's actions, he, too, handles the situation expeditiously, and the troublemaker conveniently transfers to another school. Though idealized and contrived, the approach is novel and the conclusion optimistic.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library
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Gr. 6-9. Joe, one of the characters in The Misfits
(2001), has his say, in a voice uniquely his own. Twelve-year-old Joe knows he is gay. He played with Barbies as a young child, prefers cooking to sports, and has a crush on a male classmate. Written in the form of an assignment--an "alphabiography"--the story takes readers through the school year, one letter at a time: G is for the Gang of Five, Joe's misfit friends, who are utterly loyal when he falls for Colin. But Colin is less secure about his sexuality than Joe is, and when the rumor goes around that the boys have been seen kissing, he quashes the relationship. Joe survives the crush, and the book has an upbeat ending. ?Actually, despite a few worries, the whole book is cheerful and optimistic. Joe's family is supportive, and the kids from the nasty (Christian) family that wants to stop the Gay-Straight Alliance are removed to a different school. In other words, there's nothing terribly realistic about the scenario; in many ways, the book is reminiscent of David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy
(2003), which was for a slightly older audience. Obviously, the novel will be problematic for some--not only because of the gay theme and Joe's age but also the stereotypic portrayal of the bullying Christian family. Joe himself often comes off as a cross between Niles Crane and Harvey Fierstein. But he also reacts like a kid, and readers in his situation will wish for the love and support he receives from friends and family, as well as the happy life he so clearly envisions. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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