One of my intentions for 2013 is to share more reviews on my blog.
Here goes my first:
By Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
I sense a series in the making. And we all know how young readers pine for more books about a character who solves mysteries while makes them laugh out loud.
Colin Fischer is just such a kid. Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, the 14-year-old doesn't want to be touched, hates the color blue, and has a mind for mysteries, the kind he can research and work out to the most minute detail. His "precious, dog-eared Notebook… had seen better days, though it had been fastidiously cared for." In it, he records facts, friends, reactions. Each entry about a new discovery is often punctuated by the simple command: Investigate.
And investigate he does. When someone shoots off a gun at a birthday celebration in the school cafeteria, Colin carefully works out the mystery. The incident leads him—and a surprising friend—on an adventure.
But at its heart, the book makes you laugh. Told in clever notebook entries, footnotes (which could possibly be a distraction to kids, but added an additional layer of interest for this grown-up reader), as well as Colin's constant flash-card facial clues to help him read his classmates' emotional states-of-mind, the novel is kid-friendly and fun to read.
But of course, there are serious layers to this story. A possible budding romance. Bullying which doesn't end well for Colin. An exceptional boy who's mostly figured out how to cope. A gun in school. As Colin copes with things he never expected to tolerate, the novel challenges many of the stereotypes about autistic kids; it could well open an avenue for serious discussion.
My criticism? I wasn't fond of the way the parents were portrayed. I wished for August's dad in Wonder. I wanted more understanding, more humor, less wine-drinking and adult behavior. And I hope if Colin continues his sleuthing into a second book, the writers will re-consider the character of Colin's younger brother. Yes, I know how difficult it would be to have a brother who embarrasses you on a regular basis, but Danny was downright unlikable.
As a writer, I was bothered some by the switches in point-of-view. These are the things that trouble writers who try to read for fun, or for any other reason!
I don't think a young reader will notice.
Colin Fisher has much to recommend it. A funny, cleverly put together book, just right for older middle grade readers. And don't you love that cover?