The Anti-Book

Dial. Apr. 2021. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525552413.
Gr 5 Up–“Get lost!” is Mickey’s regular response to his parents, older sister Alice, and even his dog Noodle. The 12-year-old’s attitude stems from his sister’s bullying boyfriend who constantly taunts Mickey, claiming everything he does is “gay,” as well as his parent’s recent divorce announcement. Mickey’s one joy is chewing Bubble Gum King gum, and occasionally using the mail-in coupons for cheap prizes such as the “Anti-Book.” When he receives this journal-like book it states only, “To erase it, write it.” Mickey quickly scribbles down hundreds of people, places, and things, awakening the next morning to find himself in his created Anti-World, where things are not gone but topsy-turvy. His sister’s boyfriend has turned into a car, his big sister is now the size of his thumb, and cacti are attacking him. Is this a dream or a nightmare? And how will Mickey fix it all? This is a contemporary, quirky escape from the adolescent doldrums. From page one, tween readers are ensnared with Mickey’s relatable life. Simon’s omniscient narrator speaks to readers with equal parts humor, sarcasm, and intrigue. Short, quick-moving chapters, filled with dialogue and action, will keep the interest of its target audience. Mickey’s Anti-World is confusing, weird, and defies logic, authentically mimicking a tween mindset while also working as Mickey’s emotional catharsis. Simon focuses on Mickey’s development as a whole person, of which sexuality is a minor component. Reminiscent of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Mickey eventually comes to terms with his sexuality and his parents’ divorce, ultimately achieving self-confidence.
VERDICT Highly recommended for libraries; the strange, fantastical nature of this book is a fresh and welcome remix of the coming-of-age genre.

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