Friday, September 04, 2020

Milo Moss is Officially Unamazing

Allbright, Lauren. Milo Moss is Officially Unamazing
September 1st 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Milo's family is really invested in trying to set world records. They will travel great distances, even flying, to participate in events that promise to get them in the books, such as a record attempt for a gathering of the most people dressed as insects. Milo enjoys these events, although the last one bothered him. The insect event ended with a record... but for the most people with food poisoning! Milo and his family brought their own lunches, so aren't even part of the record holders, although he tells his nephew Jesse that he and his parents did set a record. Jesse is Milo's age and in his class at school. Milo's sister Allie is much older than he is and sometimes acts like his mother, but can be counted on in a pinch to understand in the way a sister can. Jesse's dad, a firefighter, was killed five years previously, and both Jesse and Allie are coming to terms with that and tentatively working on moving on. Jesse runs cross country with Brandon, a boy who has bullied Milo for several years, after an incident in elementary school. Milo feels responsible for Jesse, and always sticks up with him, but after the record breaking fail, the two start to drift apart. At first, Milo thinks he can fix this by suggesting lots of different record breaking attempts to his parents, and they are helpful, even taking a long trip to be at an event where a dog rides a skateboard through many people's legs. When Milo finds out that this attempt means that the DOG is a record holder, he's done. He's missing too much school, and he feels like he will never be successful. It's not so easy for his parents to step away, however, since they have been doing this for years, keep detailed records, and have lots of ongoing projects, such as a toilet paper tower in the kitchen and trying to drink the most ketchup through a straw. After an incident when Brandon messes up Milo's computer project, the two actually talk to each other and come to a bit of an understanding; Brandon has felt all along that Milo was bullying HIM. Since Milo isn't talking much to Jesse, he and Brandon start to hang out, further estranging Jesse. Even though Milo has given up trying to set records, his parents approach the school to attempt one with the students dressed as farm animals. This is too much for Milo, who works with Brandon to use the principal's computer to send an e mail canceling the event. Can Milo make peace with his family's endeavors, reconnect with Jesse, and maintain an acceptable level of family harmony?
Strengths: While there is another book that touches on the idea of setting records (Teddy Mars: Almost a Record Breaker), this book takes things a step further. Milo and his family pore over the new edition, know the rules of setting records, are family with the fact that there has to be an official to document things, and attempt all manner of different things. For readers who love to read the Guinness Book of World Records, this will be fascinating. I really enjoyed Milo and Allie's relationship, and the fact that Jesse was his nephew but they acted mostly like cousins because of their age similarity. The death of Jesse's father, and the feelings of grief and of being ambivalent about moving on was one of the best representations of grief I've seen recently. The relationship between Milo and Brandon was also fascinating-- what constitutes subtle bullying, and how often do people not get along because of simple misunderstandings? This is fast paced, with lots of goofy record breaking and general middle school highjinks, so will be a popular choice.
Weaknesses: I could have used more explanation of motivations. Why were the parents SO into the idea of record breaking? Was one lie about a record that devastating that Milo and Jesse fell out? I know that middle school students won't care, but this lack seemed odd.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, if only for the toilet paper on the cover. We need more upbeat, slightly goofy stories, and if they can work some more serious issues into books that also contain fathers smashing glass coffee tables while trying to set a record for trying to jump into underpants, all the better!

Ms. Yingling

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