Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
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****The Schwa Was Here

by Neal Shusterman

Reviewed December 20, 2004.
Dutton Children’s Books, New York, 2004.  228 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Young Adult Contemporary Novels
Winner of the 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction.

The Schwa Was Here appeals to a wide age range.  My fifth-grade son read it first and recommended it strongly to me.  The main character is a student somewhere around early high school or late middle school age, so it’s also geared to older kids, and of course I enjoyed it myself.  The book has interesting, quirky characters, and deals with the feeling everyone has had at some time or other—that you are invisible and no one notices that you exist.

The Schwa is like that.  His full name is Calvin Schwa, and the narrator, Antonio Bonano, can’t remember when he first met him.  He was sitting beside Antonio for months in science class before Antonio even noticed his existence.

Antonio and his friends decide to do a science experiment about the Schwa Effect.  They find that four out of five people don’t see the Schwa in your standard classroom, that even acting weird and dressed like a total freak, the Schwa is only barely noticed, but that he cannot get through an airport metal detector with an iron bar in his pocket, even though the security guard won’t notice him until he sets off the alarm.

Antonio’s desire to capitalize on the Schwa Effect ends up getting them into trouble.  They meet the recluse Old Man Crawley, and doing community service for him leads them on to other interesting developments.  Neal Shusterman weaves several stories together as we see the effect Calvin Schwa in fact has on the people around him.

My son and I especially enjoyed the chapter titles of this book.  Things like:  “Manny Bullpucky Gets His Sorry Butt Hurled Off the Marine Park Bridge,” and “Maybe They Had It Right in France Because Getting My Head Lopped Off by a Guillotine Would Have Been Easier,” and “Which Is Worse:  Getting Mauled by a Pack of Dogs, or Getting Your Brains Bashed Out by a Steel Poker?”

Related Reviews:
The Toll

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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