Turtle Boy

Delacorte. May 2020. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593121573.
Gr 5 Up–Will Levine is a seventh grader with several problems. He is bullied severely by his classmates for his small chin, his former science teacher discovers he has been hoarding wild turtles in his room from the marsh behind school, and now he’s being forced to spend his spare time in the hospital visiting a terminally ill boy, RJ, as a community service project for his upcoming bar mitzvah. Will has an intense phobia of hospitals because his dad died in one when he was young; he is also fearful of an upcoming surgery he needs for medical reasons. However, RJ may be just the person to help Will shift his perspective and gain confidence. RJ asks Will to complete his bucket list on his behalf; Will dutifully forces himself to try new things (attending a rock concert, riding a roller coaster, attending a school dance, and playing drums at a talent show). Through this process, Will and RJ become close friends, which makes the idea of saying goodbye even more difficult.
VERDICT A strong debut novel about grief, loss, and coming out of one’s shell.

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