Disney-Hyperion, 2013. 978-1423170990
Synopsis: After taming Emily Dickinson Middle School’s biggest bully, Safety Patrol members Nick, Molly, and Karl find themselves with nothing to do. That is, until a mysterious message appears and so does a new girl named Simone. Simone is instantly popular and manages to get Molly to hang out with her, but Nick isn’t convinced. So he concocts a plan to draw out Emily (the middle school protector who may or may not be real) find out who Simone really is.
Why I picked it up: The title caught my eye and I like books about misfits.
Why I finished it: Part comic, part novel, Fry uses his cartooning skills to add a touch of pizzaz for the reader that adds to the humor of the story. Nick is a typical middle schooler who just wants something to do as a member of the Safety Patrol, but the reader quickly begins to see that his plan is getting him in way over his head. His friends and fellow Safety Patrol members, Molly and Karl, have their own issues to deal with: Molly is annoyed that Nick doesn’t like Simone for no apparent reason at all, and Karl is just afraid of everything (he has a list on his phone to check). But character idiosyncrasies and dealing with elements beyond one’s control isn’t what makes the story; it’s the acceptance that Nick, Molly, and Karl have for each other and the strange sort of bonds that define their friendship. Fry’s art is simplistic, but the soft edges and minimal shading really brings the characters to life on the pages. The illustrations throughout give the reader a more in-depth look at the plot and the inner workings of Nick’s mind that helps to move the story to its completion. It’s a book for readers that enjoy graphic novels and the traditional text formats that has a message about what it means to be normal and shows what lengths we will go to so that we can fit in.
Other related materials: The Odd Squad Bully Bait (An Odd Squad Book) by Michael Fry; Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis; The Creature from my Closet series by Obert Skye; Charlie Joe Jackson books by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by J.P. Coovert; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Stick Dog books by Tom Watson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Pierce; George Brown, Class Clown series by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Aaron Blecha; The Loser List books by H.N. Kowitt; Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon; Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park; My Weird School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; My Weirder School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; Roscoe Riley Rules books by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Brian Biggs