I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I liked "Wart, Son of Toad" by Alden R. Carter, a novel originally published in 1985. Even though there are some things that date this novel - certain slang words and phrases - the central story and message hold true for high school students today. Carter captured a perfect slice of what high school life can be like for those on the fringes.
Steve Michaels is a sophomore with barely passing grades, few friends, and a widowed father who continues to live in the past. His only passion is fixing cars and he hopes against hope that he can attain a C average to get into Capstone, a vocational training school. He's certain his dad, a high school biology teacher, un-affectionately known as Toad, won't agree. Steve is a "dirt", someone on the fringes who smokes and doesn't care about school and its cliques, and he has trouble with his classmates, who refer to him as Wart, especially the "jocks" who dislike his dad and take out their aggression on him. As these problems increase and his grades slip, Steve feels his life spinning out of control. Ever since the death of his mom and sister three years ago, his dad has become unbearable, railing on Steve for the most minor infractions. Combine this with his problems at school and typical teenage hormones and angst, Steve is having a pretty awful time. He's certain his dream is unattainable and he doesn't know how he can survive with his father any longer, but neither are willing to cede any ground.
"Wart, Son of Toad" is an engaging read. Alden Carter masterfully explores the broken relationship between a father and son who want very different things for their lives. It is full of surprises and feels fresh for being almost thirty years old. I think any adult can recognize their high school years in this novel and that today's teenagers can relate to someone who doesn't quite fit the mold and is bullied because of it.