A coming-of-age novel that is funny, sad, and so realistic. Debut novelist, Jared Reck, is going to be one to watch. His voice holds the humor of Andrew Smith, the sentimentality of John Green, and the realism all his own. Matt is a freshman and like many freshman boys (and girls, for that matter), his brain is a mess. He can’t shut it off. The main things his brain obsesses over are basketball and his neighbor, Tabby. Tabby, who he’s known forever. His best friend. His true love. His UNREQUITED true love. When Tabby falls for a Senior, the most popular guy in school, the star of the basketball team, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Matt’s brain goes into overdrive. Fortunately, Tabby’s friendship never fails. She still is over at Matt’s house all the time - enjoying dinner with Matt’s mom and dad and little brother, Murray, and often, his grandparents watching Return of the Jedi, eating Nerds from Murray’s Halloween stash, playing Candy Land with Murray, or just watching Matt shoot hoops in his driveway. When tragedy strikes, Matt completely loses it. In addition to his obvious grief, he is suffering from a fierce kind of jealousy that causes him to lash out at everyone he loves and respects, leaving the adults who love him searching to find a way to help him see outside himself and heal.
This book really hit home for me. I could completely relate to Matt’s close family. I loved, loved, loved the role Matt’s grandparents played in the book (especially at the end, omg). I got teary-eyed when they got out of the car to hang out with the family on Halloween and Gramma had treat bags for Matt, Murray, and Tabby in her purse. That was SO my mom. Including details like this is the mark of a strong writer. I love it. I could also relate to Matt’s neighborhood, specifically, his court. His neighbors were all close and their street had a family feel, just like mine. I found Matt’s feelings of jealousy associated with his grief to be so accurate, understandable, and relatable, and a take on grief I don’t remember ever reading before. The strong language in this book reminded me a lot of Andrew Smith’s, Winger. Much of Matt’s profanity is inside of his head (like Ryan Dean in Winger) but a lot of it is out loud, too. It’s perfectly appropriate for Matt’s personality so I was totally fine with it but it’s enough language to stand out. Finally, the story includes an English class (Matt’s favorite class) taught by a teacher who is Matt’s favorite (definitely one of those Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower-caliber-of-teachers) who turns Matt into a reader and a writer. Matt is able to use writing as a way to cope. So great.