Listen Up

West 44 Bks. Oct. 2020. 200p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781538385289; pap. $11.70. ISBN 9781538385265.
Gr 7-10–In middle school, he was labeled “Loser Lucas.” Now, Lucas deals with social anxiety, leaving him tongue-tied around classmates but an acute observer of his high school caste system. Calling himself the “Lone Knight,” he vlogs ugly truths about the most popular students at his school. After gaining a following, Lucas tries changing his message to one of kindness and acceptance, only to be roundly rejected by his audience. With mixed emotions, he returns to his original reveals, including recording an incident of sabotage between field hockey teammates that is his undoing. A heart-to-heart with the saboteur leads to reconciliation, a happily-ever-after that does not feel realistic. The “Lone Knight” persona helps Lucas step out of his comfort zone, but can he do so in real life? The verse narration captures Lucas’s anxiety as he tries to interact with classmates, make a friend in auto repair class, and live with parents who are disappointed by his anxiety. Characters’ ethnicities are not described, though two characters are coded as Indian.
VERDICT Truthful observations about high school from an outsider will appeal to most students; however, the ending is a bit pat. A good hi-lo buy.

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