The middle school experience centers on two things: self-identity and friendships. Like Peirce's Big Nate, Jack is a lot more important in his own head. He's a slacker, doesn't do well in school, and isn't all that nice to people. He's not mean; he's just trying to figure out who he is, just like most middle school students. He's kindhearted, and means well, and when he stops his marshmallow throwing and video posting obsession long enough to listen to his classmates, he makes some friends and end up enjoying himself in the process.
It's easy to write tragedy. Humor is harder. Humor, when it also encompasses essential middle grade concerns and delivers important life lessons while throwing in lines about having to groom gerbils, is a very difficult feat. Costner accomplishes this with finesse, and clearly understands the way that tween minds work. From having the right socks to convincing a teacher he's serious about her class, Jack's painful middle school journey will get a lot of likes from readers who enjoy Richardson's Stu Truly, Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson, and Uhrig's Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini.