There's just something about a new-kid-in-town story that appeals to everyone, probably because the idea of starting over in an unfamiliar place -- at a new school, with new people, with a whole new set of rules -- can be terrifying. It's a good springboard for adventure, so many stories for young people grab onto this theme (you know, like those little tales of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter"). We recently found a great new book that twists it in a way you might not have seen before.
In "Alibi Junior High" by Greg Logsted (Simon and Schuster), 13-year-old Cody Saron comes to live with his aunt and start junior high. But Cody hasn't just moved; he's in hiding. For years, he's traveled the globe with his father, an undercover CIA agent who's taught him five languages, martial arts, and some serious spy-skills. But after they survive a cafe bombing meant to kill them, the safest place for Cody is the Connecticut suburbs. Cody finds that the dangers of international espionage are nothing compared to an ordinary day of junior high, where everyone thinks he's a freak, teachers are convinced he's trouble, and something as simple as a first crush leaves him totally clueless. (Too bad he doesn't have IML to help him! He could have gotten lots of advice about Middle School, Bullies, and When Your Family Moves.)
It doesn't help that he's still traumatized by the bombing and has never had any friends besides his dad. The only people he can relate to is his aunt Jenny, whose sister is the mom Cody lost when he was 2, and his neighbor Andy, who's just returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq. Can Cody stay true to who he is and also survive the strange new world of middle school? And who's that guy in the woods who seems to be watching the house?
The writing in "Alibi Junior High" is funny and honest and feels very real. Even though he's got a unique story, Cody's just one of those characters -- a new kid, an outsider -- who we can all can relate to in some way. We think guys as well as girls will enjoy it.
IML's rating: A (for Alibi!)