Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

Published by Disney Hyperion

Summary:  Simon and his parents have moved to Grin and Bear It, Nebraska, a small town in the National Quiet Zone, a place where there’s no internet to help astronomers better listen for sounds of life in outer space.  While most seventh graders would rebel about this, Simon is happy to hide away two years after he was the sole survivor of a school shooting.  It’s hard to blend in, though, when his mom’s the unconventional town undertaker and his dad is a sackbut-playing Catholic deacon dealing with what comes to be known as the Jesus squirrel, and before long Simon has two interesting new friends, Kevin and Agate.  Agate has a plan to give the scientists the extraterrestrial contact they’ve been looking for.  When Simon’s identity is discovered by his new town, he hopes that helping Agate will result in some even bigger news that will draw the attention away from him and his family.  Their plan kind of works, but all kinds of complications result in a satisfactory, if unexpected, ending.  320 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  I would not have thought it possible to write about the aftermath of a horrific school shooting with a light touch and one-of-a-kind characters, but Erin Bow pulls it off magnificently in an unforgettable novel that should be considered for all kinds of awards.

Cons:  I wish this book did not feel so timely.

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