Lynn: Every teacher and librarian knows a kid like Wayne Kovok. He spouts trivia about every topic you can think of—and many that you can’t. He uses it as a a defense tactic.
“A fact is like a shield,” he reflects. “You can hide behind it. Then you can make a run for it if you need to.”
But that was Before: Before his uncle was killed in combat, before his drill sergeant grandfather moved in with he and his mom, and before the plane carrying Wayne and his mother home from his uncle’s funeral at Arlington Cemetery crashed.
The crash changed everything. Wayne and his mom survive, but both are injured, especially Wayne, who suffered a blow to the throat and multiple lacerations to his face. He is unable to speak. The doctors insist on a liquid diet until his injury heals, and they only hope that Wayne will be able to talk again. In the meantime, he doesn’t know how to communicate with his friends, he discovers that his girlfriend wants to dump him but won’t because she feel sorry for him, and he worries that there is something wrong with his Grandpa. And then there’s the Flee—Wayne’s divorced Dad.
Harrington gives Wayne a lot of issues to deal with here, and there’s much to interest young readers, like a gripping plane crash scene and Wayne’s serious injuries. Kids will relate to Wayne’s friendship, family, and girlfriend issues. Wayne sees his world through his self-focused lens, but as the story progresses, so does his understanding of the people and the world around him. Readers will cheer as Wayne finds his voice in many different ways.