Title: 8th Grade Superzero
Author(s): Olubgemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Genre: MG Contemporary Coming-of-Age
Page Count: 324
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
The Summary: For middle schooler Reggie McKnight, being called “Pukey” is the least of his problems. School elections are coming up, but he’s as far away from being school President as he is from shutting down his enemy Donovan or meeting up with the beautiful Mialonie. His friends Ruthie and Joe C. have his back, but let’s face it: Reggie can only be a superhero on the pages of his graphic novel, Night Man.
Then Reggie gets involved with a local homeless shelter, the Olive Branch. Haunted by two of the clients there -- George, a once proud man now living on the streets, and five-year-old Charlie, who becomes his official “Little Buddy” -- he begins to think about making a difference, both in the world and at school.
-- from goodreads, though I omitted the last sentence, as it was spoilery.
The Review: I basically inhaled this novel between the hours from the time I had breakfast to lunch. It was adorable! I wasn’t even put off by the superhero stuff! (Note: Not a fan of superhero genre.) Reggie was lovable, and I really liked how he makes mistakes that not ONLY are acknowledged within the text, but he owns up to his mistakes and apologizes to the wronged party later. It’s nice to see our protagonists not being Always Right. I also liked how Rhuday-Perkovic handled Reggie volunteering at Olive Branch and the homeless residents, how helping out became gradually more and more important to him. And it was tres cool that there were a number of kids in the cast who were concerned with social and/or global issues. It wasn’t done in such a way that I thought these middle graders were acting too old for their age, and also I can see how giving this book to a middle grader can make them think about these issues at hand.
But my favourite part of this novel was Reggie’s relationships with the significant people in his life. I think, out of all of them, Reggie’s buddy relationship with Charlie was the sweetest. (Dora shoes!! ♥) I loved the every changing perceptions of each other, and how their actions influenced each other in good or bad ways. Reggie and Ruthie’s relationship was adorable too. Childhood friendships are the best!!
If I have to complain about anything though, it’d be the villains. I know it’s from Reggie’s perspective, but Donovan’s villainy was a bit too 2D for me. We got a tiny glimpse of another side to his character, but it was never really developed so that we see Donovan is a character that went beyond his mean bully role. Vicky wasn’t quite as bad in comparison, but still, not as developed as I’d like. Also, while I knew Reggie’s mom was there, her presence wasn’t very strong, especially next to his father and sister. But these are just minor quibbles. The cast more or less satisfies me. I particularly appreciate how there were lots of minor characters around that, while we don’t see a lot of their background, we get just enough of them to feel like they have whole and separate lives beyond Reggie and not like, stock minor characters. =D
I liked the pacing. It was steady and gradual, building up to a good climax and finale. My favourite aspect was the fact that not everything stayed the same, and how we see people and people’s relationship with one another change over the course of the story. I also liked how multicultural the people in the story were, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY how, while their ethnic background is a factor of their identity, it is NOT the dominant driving force of the story. It’s so rare to find POC protagonists with stories that aren’t all about their racial identity, so I reallyyyyyy like that.
The Verdict: If you haven’t read this awesome debut yet you should definitely plan to. Reggie is a wonderful protagonist and it’s cute and funny and FUN and I am already forcing my youngest brother to read this, and basically this book comes highly recommended by me. READ IT!
Title and Cover Discussion: The title is absolutely PERFECT. I also am charmed by the cover. I love the colours and the yellow with the dark skyline and silhouette. It's very colour designed oriented, as oppose to, you know, the usual photo stock images or even illustrated covers, so it sticks out for me. I kinda wish the shoes at the top were Dora though. But that's really nothing to kibble over.
This counts for POC and Debut 2010 reading challenge