Few books have as immediate an impact on me as this book. As someone who grew up with a learning disability, a dual form of dyslexia, reading this book was much like reliving some of my own childhood. Schmatz does an amazing job of capturing the feelings, emotions and immense frustration of having a learning disability and being different from other people. She captures the sense of being an outsider at school and the embarrassment of going out to special education classes. She also captures how that frustration can lead to physical outbursts as it often seems like the only outlet available.
Our cast of characters includes Travis, a young man with anger issues, and a learning disability who is living with a recovering alcoholic grandfather; Mr. McQueen, who is more than just a teacher, but also an educator; he knows how to reach students that others give up on. He is the type of teacher we all need at one point or another in our life, who really connects with us. And the immensely enjoyable Velveeta, a young woman in the special education class also who is an outsider but one with a big heart.
As these characters and their stories start to intertwine, we have a story that unmasks us as readers. With such strong believable characters this story is driven both by the action and the silences between the characters. As Travis and Velveeta begin to trust each other, they make a connection to one another, and that connection is the beginning of their own process of growth and healing. This book was an amazing read, and I know that it is one I will read over and over again.
Schmatz has written a book that should become a classic in Children's literature. It should really be required reading for all middle school children to help them see the people and world around them differently. This book was so amazing that I bought and read two other of Pat Schmatz's books in under a week. Get it! It will not disappoint.
Books by Pat Schmatz:
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.
Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz