Seventh grade can sure be a challenge, especially when you are the “new kid in town” and have legs so long that you are considered a “giant mutant monster,” but spunky D.C. Blau takes it all in stride! When she and her family move to Westwood, Long Island, the only person she knows is her cousin Becky; at Becky’s birthday party, D.C. meets bashful Rob Cameron and suddenly, starting a new school seems promising. The two make plans to meet up again over the summer, but circumstances out of their control get in the way; Rob’s father suffers from a heart attack and never recovers, while D.C.’s mother has a miscarriage and is severely depressed. As the new school year begins and their paths continue to cross, a special friendship evolves; sophisticated D.C. appreciates Rob’s sense of humor and has a knack for writing silly, imaginary headlines for their experiences and Rob thinks D.C. can do anything! At first they share school assignments, nature walks, and sporting events but as they spend more time together, they each find a kindred spirit where they can openly share their dreams, hopes, and fears. Their true feelings for each other surface at the “School’s Almost Out Dance” where D.C. proclaims, “All in all, it’s been a pretty good year,” and Rob nervously plans for their first date! As Rob anxiously rides his bike to D.C.’s house, the perfect blue sky is clouded by the smoke of a descending plane that lands on the Blaus’ lawn; Rob turns on his superhero strength, entering a house engulfed in flames and although he manages to rescue D.C. before he collapses, her younger brother Tommy never regains consciousness. Still raw from the pain of the past summer, the tragedy of losing a child is too much to handle; D.C.’s parents make the decision to move and start a new life in Colorado. Although D.C. cannot believe she is leaving her “Runner Boy” behind, she strongly believes the world is so small, that she is destined to meet up with Rob in the future, when the time is right for both of them. This bittersweet story, told in distinct various voices, like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohen, will be a sure hit with fans of Paula Danziger and Judy Blume titles. Although more mainstream than steeped in Jewish culture, Rob’s mother is Jewish and there are small clues of the family’s Jewish identity such as attending events at the Westwood JCC, celebrating Hanukkah, and a favorite Yiddish story that Rob returns to year after year. Memorable, three-dimensional characters, and an intense, engaging plot makes this a great choice for middle school students. Ages 12 and up.
Debra Gold has been a children’s librarian for over 20 years in the Cuyahoga County Public Library System. An active member of the ALA, she has served on many committees including the Caldecott, Newbery and Batchelder committees.