Age Range
Release Date
January 09, 2024
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Yash is the best athlete at Robinette Middle School. So good, in fact, that's he's already been playing on the high school’s JV sports teams. Imagine his shock when he learns that his JV practices have kept him from earning a state-mandated credit for eighth-grade PE. To graduate, he has to take Physical Education Equivalency—PEE—which is also known as "Slugfest," in summer school.

At Slugfest, Yash meets the other students. Kaden is an academic superstar who's physically hopeless. Twins Sarah and Stuart are too busy trying to kill each other to actually pay attention in class. Jesse is a notorious prankster. Arabella protests just about everything—including mandatory PE. And Cleo is a natural athlete who has sworn off sports. Then there’s their “coach,” Mrs. Tamara Finnerty, a retired teacher whose idea of physical education seems to have frozen in preschool. But Yash doesn't care—as long as he gets the credit. Too bad one of his fellow “slugs” is determined to blow the lid off a scandal that could make all their time in summer school a waste. And if that weren't bad enough, Yash is in danger of losing his star spot on the JV football team.

So Yash recruits his fellow PE rejects to train with him. Spending the summer with the most hapless crew in school can really surprise a person. And their teacher might be hiding the biggest surprise yet….

Editor review

1 review
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What worked:
The story is told from several points of view by eighth graders taking a summer school gym class. They share a need to pass it or they won’t move to high school in the fall. Yash and Cleo are the two primary characters but with differing views of athletics. They are the two best athletes in class but a serious injury has given Cleo an opportunity to reevaluate the importance of sports. The minor characters provide entertaining subplots with a twin brother and sister pair being the most amusing. They’re constantly feuding about something and their relentless pranks toward each other have no bounds.

The main conflict is allowed to develop organically as the characters wonder if they’ll receive credit for the P.E.E. class. This conflict becomes the underlying focus of the book. The teacher has the students play tag or Duck Duck Goose which are certainly not typical activities for kids preparing to enter high school. An investigative journalism class is the catalyst for escalated problems as it sometimes creates unwarranted suspicions. Conspiracies and injustice may be deduced from observations when they don’t actually exist. Good intentions can backfire when people don’t thoroughly examine the overall situation or possibilities.

There are several dynamic characters who grow and transform into better versions of themselves. Yash is a star quarterback who wants to impress the high school coaches. He’s forced to seek help from the other Slugs which ends up benefitting all of them. Cleo views Yash as an entitled jock who always gets his way but she reluctantly learns that her perceptions may be mistaken. Another student has a black-and-white view of fairness but complicated events reveal that the world is full of grey. A super-uncoordinated, straight-A boy is determined to develop at least a minimal amount of athleticism.

What didn’t work as well:
The plot is fairly predictable without knowing specific details. The disgruntled students will ultimately work as a team and learn valuable life lessons along the way. The unusual blend of characters is what makes this story special.

The Final Verdict:
We can always count on Korman to use interesting characters to tell humorously serious stories that aren’t that aren’t far-fetched. This book should appeal to upper middle-grade students and I recommend you give it a shot.
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