School Library Journal
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Gr 4-8-Howe's versatility, gift for wordplay, and distinct brand of humor have produced books that create an emotional connection with a wide range of audiences. Regrettably, this novel is a misfit. Bobby Goodspeed, an overweight seventh grader who lives with his underachieving father, narrates the book. He works part-time as a tie salesman in a department store. He and his unpopular friends, known as the "Gang of Five," decide to run for student council on an alternative platform called the "No-Name-Party." The candidates must face-off with the administration and opposing parties, and convince their fellow classmates of the damage caused by name-calling. In the process, members of the group learn about love, loss, and the true meaning of diversity. Unfortunately, The Misfits rambles rather than flows. Bobby's long-winded narration is written in a passive voice and sprinkled with only occasional dialogue. When the characters do speak, their formal dialogue (presented as minutes from the friends' Floating Forum meetings) goes on for pages on end, lacking any commentary from Bobby. It is not until the last third of the novel that readers begin to identify with the characters and bask in the success of Bobby's political partners.-Louie Lahana, New York City Public Schools (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 5-8. "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit." Howe tells the truth about the pain and anger caused by jeers and name-calling in a fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers as much as all the recent books about school violence. The narrator, Bob ("fatso"), joins with his three loser friends in the seventh grade--Joe ("faggot"), Addie ("beanpole," "know-it-all"), and Skeezie ("wop," "ree-tard")--to challenge the usual popularity-contest class elections and get kids and teachers to change. The meetings of the four friends in the local diner are written as plays, and their talk is right-on and funny. Addie is the political one, refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class, but Bob emerges as the leader when he makes the personal issues political and gets the school to vote for a no-names day. The gay character, Joe, is beautifully drawn: he's unapologetic and supported by his parents. Everyone in the group is in love; in fact, Joe and Addie are in love with the same guy. The ending is too upbeat; it's the friendship that's real. The kids may be misfits, but they fit together and they give each other the freedom to be who they are. --Hazel Rochman
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What do a 12-year-old student who moonlights as a tie salesman, a tall, outspoken girl, a gay middle schooler and a kid branded as a hooligan have in common? Best friends for years, they've all been the target of cruel name-calling and now that they're in seventh grade, they're not about to take it any more. In this hilarious and poignant novel, Howe (Bunnicula; The Watcher) focuses on the quietest of the bunch, overweight Bobby Goodspeed (the tie salesman), showing how he evolves from nerd to hero when he starts speaking his mind. Addie (the outspoken girl) decides that the four of them should run against more popular peers in the upcoming student council election. But her lofty ideals and rabble-rousing speeches make the wrong kind of waves, offending fellow classmates, teachers and the principal. It is not until softer-spoken Bobby says what's in his heart about nicknames and taunts that people begin to listen and take notice, granting their respect for the boy they used to call "Lardo" and "Fluff." The four "misfits" are slightly larger than life wiser than their years, worldlier than the smalltown setting would suggest, and remarkably well-adjusted but there remains much authenticity in the story's message about preadolescent stereotyping and the devastating effects of degrading labels. An upbeat, reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved