Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Neal Shusterman

The Schwa Was Here
by Neal Shusterman
Recommended Age: 14+

Street-wise Anthony Bonano’s Brooklyn-accented voice tells us this story about growing up invisible. Anthony would know about invisibility, being the middle child in a flamboyant Italian-American family, and the one member of the family who quietly holds the others together. So Anthony, a.k.a. “Antsy,” is perfectly qualified to study the phenomenon of Calvin Schwa, a boy who has perfected the art of “functional invisibility” to such a degree that you can look right at him and not see him.

At first it’s all fun and games (and good business), as Antsy and the Schwa do experiments and take top-dollar dares, based on the Schwa’s ability not to be noticed. But they go one dare too far, and end up in the clutches of a mean recluse and his 14 Afghan hounds. Then the old man introduces them to his blind granddaughter, turning the two friends into romantic rivals. Antsy’s hormonal, teenaged anguish is deepened by changes in his role in the family, in his relationships with his childhood friends, and in the way he views himself.

Ansty’s narrative is funny, charming, irreverent, and sensitive. His adventure of growing into adulthood, including his struggle to keep a friend from disappearing forever, provide moments of deep sadness, gripping suspense, and romance. It is a thought-provoking story in a colorful setting, packed with outrageous incidents and yet somehow, completely natural and believable.

To find this book, I went all the way to New York City’s Books of Wonder. Now that you know about it, maybe you can look for it closer to home. You may have already seen it, only without noticing it... but once you read it, you’ll remember this remarkable, original story.

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