The View from the Very Best House in Town

Walker/Candlewick/. Feb. 2022. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536219241.
Gr 4-6–Middle school friendships, discrimination, bullying, and the pressures of meeting parental expectations are all examined through the triple perspectives of middle-schoolers Sam and Asha, and the mansion that looms large over their neighborhood. Sam and Asha have always been friends, drawn together by their unique personalities, and possibly because they are both on the autism spectrum. Asha adores architecture, especially the quirky and imposing features of Donnybrooke, the mansion that borders her yard, but from which she was barred after just one visit. Sam is obsessed with space and with the Househaunt game on his phone, which combines Asha’s love of buildings with his own fondness for killing monsters. Their easy friendship is tested when Sam is admitted to the prestigious Castleton Academy, where he becomes known as the “Miracle Boy” and is constantly bullied. Asha has to start middle school alone, and when she sees Sam going to Donnybrooke with Prestyn, her enemy (whose family also owns the mansion), she feels angry and abandoned. She doesn’t realize that Prestyn torments Sam and only pretends to be his friend, both as a source of amusement and to annoy her mother. Sam goes along because it makes others at Castleton Academy bully him less, but Prestyn’s evil games get out of control. Short chapters and easy vocabulary give readers multiple perspectives of how bullying starts, its devastating effects, and how adults can unknowingly pressure young people into behavior that causes pain. Asha is Hindu and South Asian, and secondary characters represent a range of ethnicities.
VERDICT A thought-provoking look at bullying and social pressures through the eyes of its victims and of an inanimate, yet opinionated, mansion that will ring true with many readers.

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