People have been raving about this YA novel and it is even one of the official picks for the 2016 Global Read Aloud. I read it over the course of two days. I give it a 4/10.
Before I tell you everything I didn’t like, let’s touch on the good stuff: The content is interesting and not common for a middle grades novel. Foster care. Teenage dads. Runaways. Implied physical abuse by a parent. There is a lot of inferring that goes on in the story – inference of swear words, inference of character interactions/intentions, etc. That’s super interesting and I liked it. There are some sassy cows in the story, too. Who can dislike a sassy cow?
But aside from that…the story is geared at a middle school audience, but reads much younger. While Schmidt has put out some extraordinary stuff, this book just…falls short.
The narrator is 12. The writing feels like it was written by the 12 year old narrator.
I don’t like that.
There is a lack of vocabulary in the story that makes my skin crawl. How many times does Jack swear someone is going to cry? How many times does Jack have to use the same freaking word to describe a series of very similar situations? It’s annoying.
Joseph has so much potential to be a really cool, really complex, really interesting character. He is  right there. Right There. But, he falls short. I get it, teenage boys in the foster system can be closed off and hard to get to know. Are we left wanting more from him because this comes from Jack’s perspective?
Annoying. Develop him. Do something with him.
Lots of stuff just kind of happens with no explanation.
I don’t like that.
The book takes place in winter.
I don’t like that (lol).
There isn’t a whole lot of change of scenery in this story. The house. The walk. The school. The sky. The barn. Over and over, the same routine. We get it. They can’t go somewhere else? Maybe if they did something other than milking cows we’d learn more about these people (like when they randomly ice skate. That was a good call.)
Lots of people said they cried their eyes out reading this novel. So did I. Because I was so bored. I was glad it was over but not glad with how it ended.
I’ll have students reading this novel in October and hope they are able to bring some sort of perspective into it that I just lack. If it hadn’t been hand picked by GRA16, I would stay far, far away from this novel.
Like, as far as Jupiter maybe.