Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Kid!

I'm no author, but I think that capturing an honest middle school "voice" must be quite difficult. Getting the slang and cultural references, for one thing, to read true. If you go overboard with the slang and references, it can sound artificial. You sound like you're trying too hard.

If you read Happy Kid!, you'll find that Gail Gauthier has no trouble writing a realistic, bittersweet, and funny novel centered on seventh grader Kyle. Concerned about his mood and attitude, his mother bribes him to read a self-help book called Happy Kid. Through navigating the trenches of middle school relationships, tests, taekwando, and a myriad of other situations, Kyle plows through the book, but not without suspecting that there's more to the book than being an ordinary self-help guide.

Gauthier also raises issues of "zero tolerance" policies in the wake of school violence, advanced placement courses, and standardized testing. She skillfully weaves these issues throughout the story in a decidedly non-preachy way. Middle schoolers will definitely recognize and empathasize with the characters and situations in the novel. Highly recommended for middle schoolers, especially if you are looking for a well-written book with a boy character.

Happy Kid is in our YF section for young adults.

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