Green, Tim. New Kid.
March 4th 2014
by Harper Childrens
Tommy Rust is doing well in his baseball game when his father appears, orders him to come, and drives off to a new life where Tommy becomes Brock Nickerson. This has happened before, but Brock is getting sick of it, and when loser Nigel picks a fight with him, Brock wallops him. Of course, Brock's father is furious that Brock has brought attention on himself, but Nigel now thinks that Brock is cool and invites him to smash the windows of the gym teacher/coach who broke up the fight and ripped their shirts. Coach Hudgens is an unorganized alcoholic who is reeling from the death of his son in an auto accident 16 years before, and his travel baseball team hasn't had a winning season since Barrett Malone, who now plays pro ball. Brock is such a good ball player that even though Coach caught him and Nigel throwing rocks at his house, he wants Brock to be on the team. Brock's father doesn't want him to travel because people want him dead-- the same people who killed Brock's mother. Things go well with the ball season, although there are ups and downs, but before long the past catches up with the Nickersons. What is more important to Brock-- having a life, or staying with his father and all his mystery and danger?
Strengths: Green can write a compelling story with all sorts of good elements: strong characters, bit of mystery, lots of sports details. My favorite part of his writing is always the great girl characters. In this, we have Bella, the coach's niece.
Weaknesses: These err a bit on the cheesy/over the top side for me personally, but the students don't think so. The coach is flawed right down to his yellowed teeth, and we're never exactly clear on what Brock's father has done to lead to their life on the lam. Still, I always buy a copy of these when they come out, and buy two if they are about football.
Pet Peeve/Rant of the Day:
Death is not amusing. Not amusing to have to deal with, and not amusing to read about. I'm tired of reading about characters dealing with death, mainly because they seem to deal with it so poorly. Over the past weekend I read On the Road to Find Out, where the girl is devastated by the death of a pet, and The Chapel Wars where the boy is grieving his father and the girl her grandfather. Hung Up had a missing sister and a brother trying to hurt himself. In A Horse Called Hero we have a dead mother, and the foster father/reverend dies. That's just my reading during the past week.(And last night-- Wish You Were Italian, where older teen dealing poorly with death of father. I left off where grandmother was in coma, so I hope she survives, at least!)
Can we PLEASE let some middle grade parents live?
But, if you want super depressing and young adult (a couple of f-bombs), there's There Will Come a Time coming out in May that deals with a boy whose twin sister has died, and he's having trouble moving on.
People move on. It's the only thing that can be done. That the coach in New Kid dealt so poorly with the loss of his son that 16 years later he is still alcoholic-- it's not a good message. It's like reading Judy Blume's Deenie when she goes nuts and cuts off her hair when she gets a back brace. I didn't do that when I got my back brace. If we've got to have people die in middle grade literature-- and I think that it's been done enough that we can call a moratorium on it for a while-- let's at least have people dealing with it in a constructive and helpful fashion.
Of course, where's the drama in that?