The Misfits, by James Howe

Reading level: 6.1
Interest Level: 5-8th grade

Real life fiction

Bobby (Fluff), Joe (Fairy), Addie (Beanpole) and Skeezie (Punk) are the Gang of Five. It is the ironic name they give themselves. A misfit name for a misfit bunch. They meet regularly for ice cream and discussions about the world they live in. Addie (smartypants) is their leader and a bit of a rebel. She annoys her teacher by refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. She annoys her more by wanting to create a third party to run against the democrats and republicans. The gang finally decides that the thing they have in common that is different than the other parties, is that they don’t like being called names. They form the No-name party.

This book is the best I have read that deals gently with difficult subjects such as coming out as gay to your friends, dealing with an alcoholic father, an adult who loses his elderly mother seeking comfort in a boy who is also motherless, race issues, and tween confusion about dating. As Joe (poofter) is coming out to his friends, he tries to explain how it is to be gay. “There are different shades of weird, Skeezie. Mine’s pink.” (p.116) In another scene, Addie (Godzilla) is talking to DeShawn (popular) whom she is trying to recruit to be the face of the oppressed for the party because he is black. “You’re more oppressed than Tonni and Royal and me. I mean, we’re cool. You guys are the ones who have to watch your butts all the time.” (p.91)

When confronted with the truth that no one likes to be called names, we are left to watch the fun boy-girl-gay boy crush triangles untangle. This is one book that I cannot stop thinking about how cleverly and gently adult topics were introduced. Well done, Mr. Howe!