Gabe is in 7th grade and was, until this school year, somewhat normal. Normal, except that he’s convinced one of his arms is going to stretch out longer than the other. And he can’t open his locker. And he can’t speak whenever Becca is around. And he passes gas when he gets nervous. But otherwise, he’s been an average, ordinary, normal kid at St. Jude’s Academy. But now all that has changed when some test scores have him pegged as a genius. As far as Gabe is concerned, its no big deal. Afterall, what good is being a genius if you can’t even open your own locker? But his parents care. And his teachers, the principle, his friends, the janitor. In fact, that he’s a genius seems to matter to everyone but Gabe! It’s going to make for one long school year, how can he possibly manage it?
How could I refuse when Pauline Media asked me to review this book? The cover is hip, the premise is good, its Catholic. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a slow start, and at first I thought it would be a difficult trudge through. But not so. In fact, a few chapters in and I was hooked. Half way through and I was snickering at the funny points, and crying (yes, I cried) at the sad parts. In the end, I put it aside with a nice resolved smile on my face. Good won in the end without breaking my teeth with its sweetness.
No. I didn’t laugh at the fart jokes. I can’t stand body humor – but my husband insisted it made for good comedy. I’m still not convinced. I cringed when the principle looked at the “gifted” class and accidentally admitted he was trying to “make a name” for himself. The few Catholic school principles I’ve known have been extremely humble, so the comment seemed a bit out of place to me. Indeed, I can’t think of too many careers outside of a Catholic middle school principle that would be quite as trying and thankless. I wasn’t keen that Gabe’s experience at Christmas mass started out with “the choir singing every Christmas song there is”, and then “stand up sit down stand up sit down,” until it culminated in him getting nervous, falling, and then farting in the middle of mass. Sure my kids complain about a long mass, but I try not to indulge the feeling and attempt to encourage them to see the beauty (no reader, I’m not under any illusions as to my immediate persuasiveness on the countless joys of a Christmas mass, but immediate results aren’t really the goal). I furrowed my brow, too, when Gabe whispers to St. Jude that he understands now why St. Jude never helped him – because Gabe wasn’t a lost cause. Meh. Maybe I’m being too harsh here, but can’t we be a little bit grateful for a saint’s intercession? Show a wee bit of gratitude to God for His grace? The shrug felt to me as a dismissal of an otherwise nice, but not overly done, aspect of the book. Namely, saints are our friends in heaven. Even – especially – when we’re awkward 7th graders just trying to figure it all out.
Except for those few complaints, I enjoyed the book. There was an unexpected exchange of a few Holy Cards. A Dominican nun – in habit – as a teacher. St. Jude! I love St. Jude, a devotion I picked up from my mother-in-law (and probably why I’m a little over sensitive to his dismissal). I really enjoyed Haynes’ portrayal of common 7th grade parental angst without undermining the authority of said parents. Not at all cheesy, and not defiant, per se. Rather, a very real portrayal of a perceived misunderstanding later healed by love. Beautiful. This is the type of book that should line Catholic school library shelves (in addition to the classics, of course). Relevant Catholic titles. Fun – and funny – reads. Good, light hearted books. A.K.A Genius is that. A good book.I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book nor did it affect the content of my review.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Sister Stevie: a teacher, a nun, and an all around nice person. Gabe’s parents, his grandparents. Authority is (mostly) respected throughout the book. The janitor is mean to Gabe.
- Violence – Gabe stands up for himself and winds up punching a class mate. Also, by accident, a girl (he apologizes but insists that she “deserved it”).
- Sexual Content – Middle School crushes. There is talk of puberty – pits sweating (the protagonist is male, after all), despair at the lack of a mustache when there were some 8th graders who were already “men” and had theirs – none of it is explicit or offensive, I’m just letting you know its in the book.
- Language – None.
- Consumerism – None.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None.
- Religion – The story takes place in a Catholic school. There is emphasis on how long (and by implication monotonous) the Christmas Eve Mass is (from a 7th grader’s perspective).
- Other – Fart jokes.