A Perfect Mistake

Little, Brown. Jul. 2022. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316668583.
Gr 3-7–Eleven-year-old Max was looking forward to starting middle school as one third of the “Three Broskateers” along with Joey and Will. On the first day of school, Max has to write a letter to his future self; but he’s stuck, acutely aware of the stares of the rest of his classmates as they wonder about his height. He had always been tall for his age, but he’s now 5’10 thanks to a recent growth spurt, leading to hurtful assumptions. He’s also hurt by Joey’s sudden distance. He’s not answering phone calls or texts ever since a night Max doesn’t like to think about. Will is in a medically induced coma and all the adults want to know what happened when the boys snuck out. Max has no answers, but carries tremendous guilt. He also has ADHD. Sometimes the new strategies he learned with his therapist work—though sometimes his coping mechanisms are misunderstood, like when his new classmate Sam assumes he is staring at her instead of just spacing out. Max is immediately endearing with his careful, open, and thoughtful manner; readers will instantly relate to his pain. School and family dynamics are authentically portrayed. The suspense over what occurred slowly ratchets up as Max flashes back and gradually reveals events. His investigations with Sam, a budding journalist, are also believable. The adults surrounding Max are supportive and positive.
VERDICT Readers will enjoy a first-rate mystery which as an added benefit subtly reinforces the practice of empathy. Highly recommended.

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