Josie is pretending to be an android in Maximillian’s classroom, but she doesn’t behave the way the whatnots were designed. Whatnots are supposed to be well-behaved and kind to the rich student in the room, but Josie is independent and gets Maximillian to do things he wouldn’t normally do. On the first day of kindergarten, she gets Maximillian to shorten his name to Max and encourages him to play in the mud at recess. There are cameras all over the school, so security is very aware of Josie’s behavior. However, instead of correcting Josie, a voice to security says “Maybe she’s the one”. This statement leaves a lingering question about her character that continues throughout the book until the climax.
The focus of different chapters changes between Josie, Max, and the narrator. Max and Josie come from very different backgrounds with very different experiences, but the narrator controls the overall story. She shares relevant sidenotes to help readers understand what’s going on, but she’s also confused at times when some discoveries are shared. This fact creates some confusion at times for readers, (How can she be confused when she’s the one telling the story?) but everything becomes understandable as the book gets deeper into the plot. The narrator is actually a character in the story, and her engaging voice presented directly to readers makes her chapters some of the most enjoyable.
The book is a lesson in how to treat others, as it passionately promotes a theme of loyalty and friendship. Max’s parents pay for classes full of whatnots in order to give him stable “friends” who display positive behaviors. They want to protect him from bullies, keep him from mistreating other kids, shielding him from people who want to get close to him because of his family’s money. Even though Josie doesn’t act like a typical android, she still treats Max with kindness and respect, and the two of them become inseparable. The second half of the book finds their friendship put to the test, and a difficult challenge highlights the foundation of their relationship. Loyalty and supporting each other are keys to success.
What didn’t work as well:
The conflict early in the book isn’t very suspenseful or compelling. It’s interesting, but it’s not easy to tell where the plot is headed. However, the story becomes more focused and an intriguing problem emerges when Max completes the fifth grade. All kinds of revelations are made about whatnots, androids, and several important characters. Max’s whole world is turned upside down, but Josie discovers many new truths too. The build-up to the climax is a roller coaster ride of emotions.
The final verdict:
A moving tale of friendship. The adorable kids will touch readers’ feelings, as they struggle to stay together. The author creates a thought-provoking and moving story that will make readers ponder the kind ways to treat others. Margaret Peterson Haddix has written another winner!