Posted by John David Anderson (review)
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Reviewed by
Anderson, John David Posted. Walden Pond/HarperCollins, 2017[384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-233820-4 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-233822-8 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5–8

Eric, whose nickname has been Frost since he won a poetry contest, is fortunate to find middle-school friends in three other guys whose outsider status binds them into a tightknit, supportive group: J.J., called Bench because he warms that seat for every team he’s on, Advik, called DeeDee because of his fondness for Dungeons & Dragons, and Morgan, called Wolf in honor of fellow piano prodigy Mozart. They are joined at their lunch table by new girl Rose, whose large size invites ridicule, but whose confidence and physical strength are more than a match for the bullies whose venom against Wolf, who is gay, turns nasty. The main conflict focuses on the students’ response to the banning of cell phones in school, which is of course to pass notes, which then become increasingly hateful. This situation, however, is less important than the real focus of the story, which is how and why friendships are built, and how and why they break and change as kids begin to solidify their identities and ethics. Frost’s narration is smoothly readable with recognizable emotional responses and accessible insights, and the plot is well paced even though the book is primarily character driven. There is definitely an “it gets better” message here, but it’s delivered in a way that calls on allies to take practical steps to improve things rather than waiting it out, which is, of course, a message worth sending. [End Page 443]

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