A Review of a Middle Grade Novel
I am diligently working on a draft of my middle grade mystery. I have learned more by working on this book than I ever imagined. As my girls are now 17 and 21 I am a bit further away from middle school kids than I used to be. Now my youth circle is made up of young people finishing college, starting college and working so I decided to read some contemporary middle grade fiction. My hope is to keep my mind and my emotions in touch with those of my middle school audience.
After asking for some suggestions I picked up Restart by Gordon Korman. I enjoyed this book. It has an interesting premise and enough twists to keep me interested and emotionally involved. I also found it to be well structured and one I can learn from. In a nutshell: a boy wakes in the hospital after a fall induced coma and remembers nothing. Throughout the story he begins to discover that the person he is now is very different from who he was before. He has a loving family and friends, but not all the kids at school are happy to see him return. There are clues and breadcrumbs that lead him to who he used to be and he must decide if now is the time for a change.
Some big decisions await him at 12 years old.
Just to be clear in how I see it:
Clues: things that lead us along the way
Breadcrumbs: things that show up to appear later as clues.
These are my terms.
I use them to help me along in my book—there are clues as it is a treasure hunt/ scavenger hunt mystery. The breadcrumbs are things that we are introduced to in passing that show up later to be clues. It is essential I keep it all straight in order to not anger my readers. Mr. Korman does an excellent job with this.
The other thing he is terrific at(and I almost put the book down because of it) is having his main character make a mistake that looks like it will screw everything up. And it does, for a bit.
This book does end on a positive note.
People can change if they decide to. And it is worth it to give them a second chance if they are trying to change. A nice lesson. We see that behavior begins in the home and environment but ultimately we make the decision as to who we are.
As far as audience, though the protagonist is a boy, girls will like this too. It is told from several points of view including both females and males.Age level—the kids are 12 in 7th grade. It falls into middle school and the chapters are not super long.
I thought it was a great premise but to tell you why I would have to spoil it.
He wakes to know nothing, people seem to fear him and eventually finds out he was a horrendous bully. He has to deal with new friends, people he hurt, and the bullies he ran with all while navigating not remembering things. Turns out underneath he was a nice guy but the importance put on bullying and being leader and being a big football champ led him to behave in a different way- His parents are divorced and his dad is remarried so we don’t really know what his childhood was like. He was treated as a hero for football victories and it is all too easy to imagine who he would have been in high school if not for the fall from the roof. Why he was up there is another part of the story.
I am looking for another middle grade story to read and welcome any suggestions!