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by James Patterson ; Chris Tebbetts ; illustrated by Cory Thomas

Pub Date: March 16th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-316-32214-0
Publisher: Little, Brown

Kenny's dreams of superpowered heroics provide a respite from his tough school.

Kenny Wright loves his grandma, chess and superheroes. Less loved is his school, an overcrowded, underfunded cinderblock straight out of the fourth season of The Wire. A string of peculiar circumstances puts Kenny in the position of teaching his enemy, Ray-Ray, how to play chess, but this crummy state of affairs may be just what Kenny needs right now. Just as Patterson (Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life, in print 2011) used comic observations to explore a culture ruled by test scores, this outing is an examination of inner-city schools, a subsection of our educational system plagued by budget cuts, principal-hopping and a society that may have written them off entirely. Thankfully, the authors never get too preachy for their own good. The cultural analysis is secondary to Kenny and the relationships he has with his friends and his grandmother. Told with the humorous style characteristic of Patterson when he's in preteen mode, the novel fits right in with I Funny (2012), Middle School… and the like. Adding to the book's charm is a periodic collection of comic-filled pages that help further illustrate Kenny's inner workings as well as present just plain fun superhero stories.

A smart and kind story topped with just the right amount of social justice.

(Fiction. 9-12)