Year of Publication: 2016
Genre: Realistic Fiction (Middle Grade)
Format (How I Read It): Paperback
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.
Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.
Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.
Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
Themes: Friendship. Stealing has consequences. People are different and that’s okay. Family. Family doesn’t always know everything. Assumptions are often wrong. There’s more to people than meets the eye. Bullying hurts people. A new friend could be sitting right next to you. (Themes generated by my students from the last couple years!)
Character Development: Both of the main characters in this story, Joe and Ravi, experience so much growth and it feels really authentic. There are a couple chapters toward the end of the book where their character development becomes really apparent, and it’s always exciting to see how kids react to the change. The supporting characters in this book are also great, even though they don’t experience quite as much growth (aside from Joe’s parents, who do change quite a bit).
Plot/Pacing: The book is divided up into five sections: one for each day of the school week. And each section is labeled with the day of the week and the school lunch option for that day (because Joe’s favorite part of school is lunch). It’s fast-paced and fun, with some more serious moments thrown in. It’s such an engaging story.
Writing Style: Due to the book being written by two co-authors, each character has a really distinct voice. One common issue I have with dual-narration is that the characters’ voices sound too similar, but this book avoids that pitfall. That being said, dual-narration can potentially be confusing to younger readers who haven’t been exposed to this style before (especially when being done as a read-aloud), so to avoid confusion I create a poster where we track character traits for each character and I point to it with each chapter change to make it really clear who’s narrating while we’re reading.
“Bingeability”: Moderate-high. Once you get to the last couple sections, it’s really hard to put down!
Emotional Investment: Moderate.
Windows and Mirrors: Immigration. Bullying. Auditory processing disorder (APD). Racism. Multi-generational households.
Overall Thoughts: This is such a fun book to do as a read-aloud! My students this year actually applauded when we finished it (which surprised me because they’re generally a very mellow, quiet class). The character development is fantastic, and the climax of the story is outrageous and the students always have a strong reaction to it. It’s one of my favorite read-alouds to do early in the year (since the story takes place during the first week of fifth grade)!
Recommendation: Great for read-aloud. Would lend itself well to lessons on character traits (internal and external) as well as character change. It would also be great for learning about plot (it would be easy to track on a story mountain). It would also be a good book to use to teach about theme. I’m sure it would be great for many other things, but in general I just highly recommend this book!
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!