by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Middle-schooler Sam Lewis is about to get his butt kicked in exactly 33 minutes. Sam is a brainy kid, a champion mathlete with flawless grades. It shouldn’t be such a surprise that a popular football player like Morgan Sturtz is going to kick his tail. But it is a surprise for Sam. Ever since they were little kids they used to be the best of friends. Inseparable. Their parents even called them MorSam! How could things have gone so wrong so fast? Minute by minute as Sam counts down to the conflict, he recounts the rise and fall of his friendship with Morgan. But along the way, several pretty big events derail Sam’s countdown. Among them are an epic food fight and a fire in the school that serves to make this day one of the most memorable of Sam’s life.
There are so many books about the heartbreak associated with the deterioration of a romantic relationship. It tends to fall into the realm of stories set in high school and beyond. This book gives some much deserved attention to the sort of heartbreak that is most prevalent, if not inevitable, in middle school: the heartbreak of a broken friendship. I felt myself nodding along as Sam explained how everything fell apart. They developed different interests; one grew faster than the other (adolescence can a real beast); and then a straight-up, bad-news newcomer moved to the neighborhood. I think every reader can identify with it on some level.
But, don’t be fooled. This isn’t a purely sentimental, emotionally charged book aimed at middle grade readers. No indeed. Sam tells his story with clever good humor and downright hilarious doodles sprinkled in for good measure. He’s a smart kid and it’s reflected his smart and compelling first person narrative. This is a funny and undeniably poignant book that is intended for middle readers, but I think I enjoyed it just as much if not more. From beginning to end it is simultaneously sad, hopeful, funny, and true. I wholeheartedly recommend this title for those still in the trenches of middle school as well as for those of us who have survived it.
Submitted by Mollie Harrison
Springville Road Library