The Decomposition of Jack

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Oct. 2022. 208p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063212268.
Gr 5 Up–Tubbs’s latest middle grade novel (following A Dog Like Daisy and Zeus, Dog of Chaos) departs from dog narration and introduces readers to seventh grader Jack Acosta, also known as “Jack Splat.” Jack is learning to live with his parents’ divorce while helping his mom with her career studying roadkill and its decomposition (hence the nicknames, which also include “Roadkill Kid”). He is also providing feedback on his best friend’s comics and figuring out how to get the attention of his crush, “Algebra Green Eyes,” who happens to head the school’s conservation club. Although he’s a scientist, Jack finds himself in danger of failing earth science; but he may be able to turn things around if he can prove that cougars are not extinct, because there’s one living in the woods behind his house. Heavy themes of divorce and extinction loom large, but Tubb offers humorous moments and a caring mother-son relationship to balance them. Animal lovers and budding conservationists will be especially drawn to the ongoing mystery of whether cougars still live in Tennessee. An author’s note provides further information about roadkill collectors and cougars.
VERDICT An engaging coming-of-age tale for the environmentally minded tween.

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