If you're like most people, you probably had a hard time in middle school. But even though you can't go back and correct the bad things that happened to you in those geeky days, you can do the next best thing: You can read 8th Grade Super Zero, and root for a "pukey" underdog whose hard times will make your own pale in comparison.
8th Grade Super Zero, by debut author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, is the story of Reggie "Pukey" McKnight, an eight grader who lives a mostly forgettable existence--if you don't count the time he puked all over the stage on the first day of school. His "puke performance" makes him the joke of his classmates; no one lets him live it down, especially his friend-turned-enemy Donovan Greene, who constantly calls him out in front of everyone.
Eighth grade looks mighty bleak for Reggie, until he becomes a "big buddy" to Charlie, a snot-nosed little first grader who thinks the sun and the moon revolve around Reggie. Then things change even more; Reggie gets involved in a homeless shelter project and finds himself focusing more on solving other people's problems than on how to solve his own. He gets so involved, he inspires other students to help, and before long, they are looking to him for approval and direction. To Reggie's amazement, he is no longer such a zero; he's making a difference in the shelter, and if he puts his mind to it, he just might be able to make a difference at school, too...
8th Grade Super Zero is just a wonderful book. The writing is strong, the pacing is perfect, and I love that it doesn't serve up the "perfect ending" as so many other books do; in fact, it offers no ready answers to life's deepest questions, and "Pukey"--um, I mean Reggie, is often on his own to figure out why life is the way it is.
Rhuday-Perkovich's characters are funny, sad and multi-dimensional, and you'll find yourself rooting for every one of them: The incredibly talented Reggie McKnight; his best friend, Joe C.; the political fireball (and possible first crush), Ruthie; and that runny-nosed little pistol, Charlie, who's convinced that Reggie is a superhero in disguise.
I give this one FIVE STARS.