Four teenage junior high students, each with a distinctive approach to life, typify some of the many differences among students of that age. Jake Schwartz is the nerd of the group. He loves studying, is really a “little boy” in many ways, and rationalizes the rejection of his peers by denying the hurt it brings. Hannah, his older sister, is an often thoughtless social “queen”. They live a wealthy suburban Jewish lifestyle and Danny, the Hispanic son of their housekeepers, lives on the premises and is Jake’s close friend. But Danny is maturing more quickly than Jake and is more ready to enter the school social scene which threatens their friendship. Jake’s friend, Dorothy Wu does not fit the stereotype of an Asian teenager. She is not good at math, loves writing fantasy stories, and develops a writing group that brings her unexpected friendships and popularity. Ethnic backgrounds and maturity levels combine with personality traits and play a big part in the development of each character. Danny’s gang involvement and Jake’s upcoming bar mitzvah are also catalysts in the action that change each of these four students as they move slowly and cautiously toward the adults they will become.
The author has a wonderful ear for the language of teenagers and the milieu in which they live. The passages in which the teenagers text each other reveal their true feelings about a variety of subjects. He also shows how little parents and teachers actually know about the interactions of their children and students. This includes the cruelty of the teenage years as well as the risk taking that can often be life threatening. Recommended for ages 12 – 15.