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Russ Thompson
HIGH-INTEREST NOVEL FOR RELUCTANT TEEN READERS. Nick Simonson is troubled, lonely, and sinking fast in high school after the death of his father. His teachers don't like him, his grades are falling, and he sees no future for himself. Additional tragedies occur that plunge him lower. Can he pick himself up and move forward? LEXILE MEASURE 520L.
High school freshman Nick Simonson can’t catch a break. Six months ago his dad died, and he’s already fallen into a pattern of not doing homework, stealing from stores, and tagging with his best friend Grady. Things go from bad to worse, and Grady dies in an accident, and Nick has to decide what kind of man he wants to be. Written in crisp, short sentences (“I hate English. But I like writing in my journal because we can say whatever we want”) that power a fast-moving plot and come straight from Nick’s journal, Russ Thompson’s (Knocked Down) compact novel—the sixth in his Finding Forward series—packs an emotional punch, deftly exploring the complexities of teenage emotions and highlighting the importance of having adults advocate for you.

Telling the story through Nick’s journal allows Thompson to demonstrate the power of writing, reflection, and understanding one’s feelings. Since it offers a whirlwind story that builds tension in just over 100 pages, Overspray’s sequence of events–especially the tragedies that pile up in Nick’s life–can at times feel driven by the plot rather than organically occurring in the narrative, and the story doesn’t allow time to show Nick putting in the work that eventually turns his life around. The journal itself is, in many ways, the heart of that work, though, and thoughtful readers should be able to fill in the gaps.

Pacing choices aside, Overspray succeeds as an approachable and likely interesting book for reluctant teen readers who would also like their life’s problems and their emotions to be taken seriously. The supportive network of adults in Nick’s community who come together for him as he strives to be a better student don’t overshadow his triumphs, but rather encourage him in his endeavors. Ultimately an ode to what society can do for its young people, Overspray will win the hearts of teen readers and keep them engaged in reading as well as in their communities.

Takeaway: Fast-paced and resonant, Overspray will interest reluctant teen readers looking to be entertained and taken seriously.

Great for fans of: Cecily Wolfe’s That Night, Alyssa Wilde’s Crash Course.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-