Exit Strategy

176p. S. & S./Aladdin. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481479127.
Gr 5–7—Twelve-year-old Ross Stevens is an expert at grand farewells. After 12 moves in just three years, thanks to his mother's job in a traveling symphony, Ross has perfected the art of "exit-lence," as he calls it, and doesn't worry about much else besides how he'll make a memorable exit. Friends and schoolwork aren't priorities, since he's never around long enough for either to matter. But when the boy's grandfather suffers a fall, Ross and his mom abandon their next move to take care of him. Ross is at a school for good for the first time, and he is terrified. A science fair project presents an opportunity: he decides to learn how to be funny and re-create himself with a winning personality. But that proves harder than Ross expected. Keeping with the science theme, chapters are named after steps in the scientific process and the narrative is interspersed with charts and graphs detailing everything from the protagonist's "Achievement of Exit-lence" to the "Universal Rules of Seventh Grade." Ross is a likable character who experiences many of the highs and lows of middle school life, and his desire to fit in and define himself is humorously exaggerated. He shows growth over the course of the book, realizing that day-to-day choices are more important than grand events. Readers who appreciate Gary Paulsen's short, funny novels will find something to enjoy here.
VERDICT For larger collections in need of stories about forging identity while navigating middle school.

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