Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Arc Review: Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher
Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher. 233 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, August 22, 2017. 9781419726019. (Review from arc obtained courtesy of the publisher at ALAAC)
Joseph Friedman is the narrator of this winning debut. He begins seventh grade hiding from the soccer ball in gym class because he knows Charlie Kastner's going to find a way to mow him down. Just as that's about to happen, Charlie ends up on the ground and the ball is stolen by a new girl who runs fast. She runs so fast, no one can catch up with her. After she hip-checks the only player between her and the goal and makes the goal, there is no cheering. In fact, some students are hostile and the gym teacher's only response is to suggest that she try out for the school's soccer team. For some reason, this new girl is on the outs immediately. But, while Joseph's strategy is to lie as low as possible, Heather's is to fight back.
Joseph's only respite is Mrs. T., short for Teitelbaum in the resource room. Mrs. T. understands his ADD and the variety of phobias and quirks that plague Joseph and make him a bully magnet. She helps him with strategies and suggestions. Her suggestion on the first day of seventh grade is that Joseph join the brand new cross country team. Joseph has no interest in running and his objection that he's the slowest kid in the seventh grade does not sway Mrs. T., so Joseph signs up for cross country. Turns out, Heather joins cross country as well and the two form a friendship. It also helps that Mrs. T. is the coach and that several students from the resource room are on the team.
There's a lot to like here - colorful characters, authentic middle school situations, the ins and outs of cross-country running, and dialogue that rings true. Give this to students who like gentle reads, books about unlikely friendships, books about running and fans of Jordan Sonnenblick. In fact, I think that Maverick from Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade and Joseph would become friends in the real world.
I can't wait to booktalk this when school starts.