I have to admit that the first time I looked at this title, I wasn't thrilled. "Very different from this author's other titles. Very strong Southern dialect used by main character, and the book starts out with an elderly resident of a nursing home dancing naked. I normally adore this author's work but will pass on this title."
When I was approached to be part of the blog tour, I read more of the book, and have to say that I really liked it. I have an ENORMOUS aversion to southern dialect, which I think made me put down the book the first time. Enormous. It's wrong, I know.
I'm always pushing kids to read outside their comfort zones because they might find a book they really like. This is an excellent case in point. Definitely take a look, and push through the first couple of chapters!
Van Draanen, Wendelin. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones.
October 25th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from NetGalley.com
Lincoln and his mother have left their home in another city to flee the mother's abusive boyfriend and moved near Lincoln's aunt. They have a tiny, run down apartment, and Lincoln's mother is an aide at a nursing home. Because she doesn't want to leave him alone, Lincoln walks to the home after school each day to do his homework and occasionally visit with the residents. He is having difficulties at school, where the other students make fun of his Southern accent, and Kandi Kane (yes, her real name-- don't give her a hard time!) seems to be picking on him. At first, Lincoln doesn't like going to the home because he thinks the oldies, especially the ones in the extensive memory unit, are just weird. He gets to know some of them a bit more, and starts to appreciate their individuality. He and his mother also try to befriend an elderly neighbor who needs help but doesn't want to accept it. Lincoln is happy that he and his mother are safe and able to go to school and work and have enough to eat, and eventually makes his peace with the other children at school.
Strengths:Van Draanen's writing is always intriguing and well crafted, and I very much appreciated that while there were lots of things in Lincoln's life that weren't perfect, the general tone of the book was upbeat. I'm a huge fan of making the best of a bad situation, whether in books or in real life. The scenes in the nursing home were realistic and touching without being maudlin. Lincoln's interactions with his classmates were also spot on. Very nice balance. Lincoln and his mother were great characters, as was Mrs. Graves, their feisty yet ailing neighbor.
Weaknesses: In a reversal of my usual complaint, I wish that this book were about 20 pages LONGER so that a couple of questions were answered. What's with Kandi's manicures? Why is Isaac having so many troubles with classmates? I really wanted to know a lot more about Mrs. Graves. Keeping a middle grade novel under 200 pages is always a good call, however.
What I really think: I wasn't going to buy this, but now I am. The cover isn't great, but with some hand selling, I think it will do well.