On the first day of eighth grade, Reggie lived every student’s worst nightmare- he puked. On stage. Practically on the principal. In front of everyone. Now, his classmates only refer to him as Pukey. Along with his out-of-work father, his annoying older sister (and her drama), and his issues at school, Reggie has a lot on his plate. In other words, he is your typical young teen. His greatest escape is his greatest creation- Nightman. With his best friend, Joe C., drawing the illustrations and Reggie writing the story, his comic allows him to be the superhero he wishes he really was.
When his youth group gets involved at the local homeless shelter, Reggie’s eyes are opened to some of the problems in his own neighborhood. His best friend, Ruthie, always looking globally and acting locally, is thrilled at the prospect of him taking on more of the world’s issues. His other best friend, Joe C., is a little more uncomfortable with the whole thing. Then Reggies learns that his “Little Buddy”, kindergartner Charlie, is a resident at the shelter. But no one is more surprised than Reggie when he suddenly leaps on a table during lunch and declares his candidacy for 8th grade class president.
Really? Can a kid everyone calls “Pukey” really become president? And can anyone win a middle school election by talking about real issues, instead of running on a platform of popularity?
I was thrilled with this debut novel. Longer than a typical middle grade novel, it fits that older-middle-grade niche perfectly. I have a lot of 6th graders who are too old for many middle grade books but not really ready for YA. Reggie is an eighth grader dealing with the day-to-day problems of being in middle school. There are girl issues, family issues, popularity issues, faith issues, and even global issues. While it may sound like a kid volunteering at a homeless shelter is a little preachy (or unrealistic), Rhuday-Perkovich writes it perfectly. Reggie is uncomfortable and unsure of himself for the first few visits, but he grows and develops as a person with each subsequent visit to the shelter.
Make no assumptions- Reggie isn’t perfect. He isn’t a goody-two-shoes or unbelievable as a teen. He struggles with making decisions and he doesn’t always make the right ones. In fact, he makes the wrong decisions an awful lot. Just like a real kid.
This is a don’t midd debut from an author I expect to hear great things from. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about Eighth-Grade Superzero come next year’s award season. This is a superbly written book about growing up in today’s world.