Reviews for Misfits
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 November 2001
/*Starred Review*/ 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. ((Reviewed November 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Spring
Overweight Bobby, tall Addie, scruffy Skeezie, and effeminate Joe are self-described misfits. All four run for office in the school elections, with a platform protesting name-calling. Though weighed down by a circuitous plot and didactic message, the story is leavened by everyday concerns--middle school crushes (both straight and gay), teacher-student conflicts--all related in BobbyÆs distinctively fresh voice. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #6
Bobby is the fat one. Addie is very tall and very smart ("major liabilities if you were born into the world a girl"). Skeezie dresses like a hood, and Joe "acts more like a girl than a boy." Together, these four self-described misfits form the Gang of Five-five "because we figure that there's one more kid out there who's going to need a gang to be a part of." Addie, a seventh-grade rebel looking for a cause, hatches the idea of starting a third political party for the school elections, pushing a minority classmate to run for student council president. When her patronizing plan falls apart ("You got eyes that see no further than the color of my skin," says their African-American candidate before dropping out of the election), the Freedom Party transforms into the No-Name Party, and the plot jarringly changes focus. Having endured more than their share of epithets (among them: blubber, faggot, loser, nerdette), the Gang of Five all run for elected positions on a platform protesting name-calling in school, invoking the heavy-handed slogan, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit." Some will cheer Bobby's personal triumph in delivering an emotional campaign speech before an audience of classmates, but middle-school readers may acknowledge there's an element of wish-fulfillment in the implausibly positive response it receives. Though weighed down by its circuitous plot and didactic message, the story is leavened by everyday concerns: middle-school crushes (both straight and gay), romantic intrigues, teacher-student conflicts, and the trials of a first after-school job, all related in Bobby's fresh and distinctive voice. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 September #1
The Gang of Five wants, basically, to get through seventh grade in Paintbrush Falls, New York. The four of them (there are only four, actually) have been friends forever: Bobby's fat; Addie's too tall and too smart; Skeezie has personal hygiene issues; and Joe has known he was gay almost since he was born. It's Bobby's sweet, sharp voice that narrates-how Addie's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class leads to their all running for school office, how each of them develops their first crush, and how both play out in utterly recognizable 12-year-old ways. Howe (Color of Absence, p. 941, etc.) lets his kids discover how the names we call each other shape our vision of ourselves, and the Gang's attempt to bring about a no-name-calling day (no Dweeb, Fluff, Twinkie, or Nerdette) rings true and real. Straight narrative alternates with transcripts of the Gang's meetings at the local ice cream parlor down to every last word, thanks to Addie's determined style. Bobby may be preternaturally articulate, but he is also winsome and funny about some very painful issues: the loss of a parent; the weirdness of adults, even nice ones; the pressure of hormones; and the importance of friendship. Readers of every stripe will find themselves here and laugh (or cringe) as they catch on. (Fiction. 10+) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 October #5
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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2001 November
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 Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2001 December
Bobby Goodspeed, silent and overweight; Skeezie Tookis, sloppy and weird; Addie Carle, liberal and outspoken; and Joe Bunch, eccentric and flamboyant, make up the Gang of Five in Paintbrush Falls Middle School. "Kids who get called the worst names oftentimes find each other. That's how it was with us . . . the Gang of Five, but there are only four of us. We do it to keep people on their toes. Make 'em wonder. Or maybe we do it because we figure that there's one more kid out there who's going to need a gang to be a part of. A misfit like us." During the seventh grade elections, Addie decides that a new political party needs to confront the established Republicans and Democrats. The Gang of Five starts the NO-NAME PARTY. Their platform is "End name-calling once and for all!" They make a list of seventy names that they have been called, write each word on paper inside a red circle with a line cutting through, and secretly post these all over the school. The school buzzes; even the principal cannot ignore the name calling any more because, as Bobby says, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit." Howe allows the reader to become a fly-on-the-wall spy while these four very real kids chatter away about everyday happenings that should not be normal in this timely, sensitive, laugh-out-loud must-read for all middle school students and teachers. This book is needed.-C. J. Bott. 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews