Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: Speak (February 19, 2009)
Paperback: 416 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Synopsis from Booklist
In his first novel for young readers, Kluger revisits themes in his adult titles: baseball, romantic sparring, and social activism. Boston teens T. C. and Augie are such close friends that their families acknowledge them as brothers. Alejandra has recently arrived from Washington, D.C., where her father served as a Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Written in multiple voices and nontraditional formats, including instant messages and school assignments, Kluger’s crowded, exuberant novel follows the three high-school freshman through an earth-shaking year in which musical-theater-obsessed Augie realizes that he is gay, Alejandra reveals her theatrical talents to disapproving parents, and T. C. tries to make a deaf child’s greatest wish come true. At the center are heart-pulling romances (even a few among adults) and a broadening sense of what family means.
The story centers around an 11th grade English assignment for Ms. LaFontaine's class, and the three friends, T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez decide to tell their story together about their "most excellent year." Through letters, IMs, essays and email, the three talk about their 9th grade year. The story is told by the three of them, but the voices sound somewhat alike, so it's helpful that each chapter identifies the name of the storyteller. I found the characters likeable and although the different love stories were predictable, I did find the relationships authentic and I especially enjoyed the growing relationship between T.C. and the six-year-old Hucky saccharine sweet, yet lovely.
T.C. is the baseball fan and civil rights warrior. After he lost his mother at six, he befriended Augie and the two became brothers, even to the point where they both call T.C.'s dad Pop and Augie's parents Mom and Dad. They each have their own beds in each others' houses and T.C. is the one that accepts Augie with all his eccentricities and diva-ness. T.C. is totally in love with Ale as well as the deaf foster child, Hucky.
Augie is the Ethel Merman wannabe, the thespian and musical theatre diva. He has parents who accept him as a gay teen, even before he officially "comes out." He too is in love with Hucky, as well as Andy Wexler.
Alejandra is the former Mexican ambassador's daughter who moves to Brookline, Massachusetts during her freshman year. She is connected to Augie through the theatre and connected to T.C. through their interest in Manzanar and JFK.
The story is unbelievable at times, but it's ok to believe in magic and I didn't have a problem with that, especially when Kluger actually has a real website for the characters. The different interests will appeal to different readers for multiple reasons, and that is the true appeal of this book.