240p. 978-1-59643-417-2.
Gr 7 Up—"I know what you think. You think I'm fixable, don't you? You want to fix the bad guy." Readers slowly learn what makes Tod, a self-confessed bully, tick by reading the notebook he writes in (not, he insists, a journal) during after-school detention. He is supervised by Mrs. Woodrow, the guidance counselor, for a school break-in with his buddies (droogs), who increasingly resent that he's gotten this cushy punishment while they are consigned to clean the school grounds. Tod is no dummy. He reads, does his homework, and gets good grades. But he's poor. His mom, a seamstress, does alterations for a dry cleaners (Tod helps), and he tries to stay away from her husband, whom he describes as "unpredictable." Lacking money for basic necessities like food and clothes, he extorts it from "losers" at school and otherwise tries to keep a fairly low profile. The plot is thin, as Tod gets roped into providing the costumes for a school play written and produced by "that spooky goth girl Luz Montoya." Still, he is a funny, quirky, interesting character. There are loose ends, but in the end it's not so much what happened, as the fun of getting there, finding out whether Tod is right or not when he writes, "I'm a loser, okay? I was born a loser and I'll live a loser and I'll die a loser. And nothing you do here is going to ever change that."—Joel Shoemaker, formerly at South East Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
After bully Tod Munn gets busted breaking into and vandalizing the school, his guidance counselor forces him to fill pages in a notebook during daily detention. The more he writes, the more he reveals--and figures out--about his friends, his actions, and himself. Tod's witty narration, prompted by the guidance counselor's occasional notes, skillfully develops both his character and the story.
Tod has a unique but entirely believable voice, and his brusque, humorous narrative is immediately engaging. Initially, Tod seems no more than a bully, albeit a smart one. But as the story progresses, and Tod reveals various hardships and injustices he’s suffered, readers will feel deep sympathy for him. Not until the very end of the book does Tod reveal why he’s in detention, though there are clues along the way. The suspense makes for a fast-paced read. Mark Shulman provides a refreshingly accurate portrayal of a working poor family, neither sensationalizing nor glossing over their troubles.

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