Tuesday, November 12, 2013
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience: Grades 5 to 7
Reviewed from NetGalley
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
The trials and tribulations of middle school are told from the points of view of many students, and some dogs, in this sometimes convoluted but heartbreaking story. It's the first year of middle school and even though everyone was friends just a short year ago, that is no longer the case. Elizabeth is mocked for boarding dogs in her house. Frieda is an outcast now even though she was once queen bee, Maggie's best friend. Stewart talks a big game, but he has a disabled sister that is his hero. Matthew just did what needed to be done, but he gets expelled for it. Ethan just took a picture, but that picture caused a lot of trouble. And on and on. This book suffers from over ambition with too many narrators, plot points, and too much drama. If only the relationships between Stewart and Matthew and Elizabeth and Maggie would have been included, Runt would have been full enough, but it is bursting and suffering for it.
The main thesis of Runt is completely lost by the 20th page or so. There is supposed to be some type of animal kingdom hierarchy analogy with the dogs at Elizabeth's house acting like the students in middle school, but that thread is quickly forgotten. Instead we're off talking about a poetry anthology, teacher's wedding, and hurricane. And the title Runt suggests that someone is going to be the weaker, smaller party and that is half true for Elizabeth, but never fully realized.
Also, there were some big formatting problems with this galley. I reviewed it from a NetGalley digital ARC and there were no chapter breaks, no differentiation from one narrator to the next, and little attention paid to the passage of time. That is the difficulty of reading a digital ARC as those small formatting changes that help a physical so much are often completely lost on a digital copy, especially for an old Kindle like mine, but still, there should have been more of a difference between narrators.
For a book on middle school bullying, I would recommend passing on Runt. It's over done and too ambitious. Instead try Wonder or Schooled. Or stay tuned. For some reason there are several middle grade bully books on my Kindle and I'm going to binge read them and clear them off. Later, Trash Can Days, then Twerp, finishing up with the Dirt Diary. It's going to be like New Adult Week except with really insecure characters in middle school (instead of characters shacking up in a dirty room above a bar).