Year of Publication: 2016
Genre: Realistic Fiction (Middle Grade)
Format (How I Read It): Hardcover
Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports.
Themes: Take care of yourself (physically and emotionally). Embrace your talents. Stand up for yourself.
Character Development: I really enjoyed Garvey’s growth throughout the story! He’s such a relatable character, and it was inspiring to watch him overcome his obstacles. However, the supporting characters didn’t have much depth to them, and we never really got to see much intimacy or growth in Garvey’s relationships with them.
Plot/Pacing: The pacing of this novel is so fast (partially because it’s written in verse, but also just because it’s really short). However, while this sometimes is a good thing, I actually thought it did the story a disservice in this case. As I was reading, I found myself thinking that it felt more like a montage than a complete story.
Writing Style: The story is written in a “Tanka” style of poetry. According to the note at the back of the book, “Tanka is an ancient poetry form, originally from Japan. The word tanka means ‘short poem’ in Japanese. The basic tanka is five lines long.” It goes on to describe that the syllable count varies in English versions, but the number of lines always stays the same. At the end, it describes how traditional tanka poems focus on mood. This does explain why I may have felt that the plot was lacking, but even the mood I felt could have been more impactful.
Emotional Investment: Moderate-high. Although I struggled to connect with the style in which the story was told, the themes and conflicts are incredibly relatable.
Windows and Mirrors: Overweight teen. Parental expectations. Choir. Bullying.
Overall Thoughts: I really wanted to like this one, and I did really enjoy the themes and overall concept! I just felt like the execution was lacking and that something was missing to make this book pack more of an emotional punch. That being said, I do still think it’s an important story that nearly all teens will relate to.
Recommendation: This would be a great model text for teaching poetry and/or figurative language. It could also be a good read-aloud for middle school and up. In general though, it would be great as an option for independent reading!
Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!