Title: Alibi Junior High
Author: Greg Logsted
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Review copy sent by author
This book was the first review copy that I received since I started this blog a few months ago. After following the author on Twitter (@GregLogsted), we sent a few messages back and forth, and the book showed up in my mailbox a week or two later. I didn’t get around to reading it until this past week, but I’m very glad that I did.
Generally, this isn’t the type of book that I tend to read. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction – though I’m starting to read more now that I’m a high school librarian – and when I do, it’s typically the kind aimed at girls. This book is definitely more aimed at boys who are reluctant readers, which basically encompasses 90% of the male population of my school. I think that this is the kind of story that might be able to catch the attention of a large number of those students.
The main character (and narrator) of Alibi Junior High is Cody, a 13-year old boy who has spent most of his life travelling around the world working with his CIA-agent father. After a deadly explosion in a cafe, he has now been sent to live with his aunt to hide away and be safe while his father settles things. Once he gets there, the hardest adjustment for him is trying to live a normal life – he’s used to constantly being in danger and to being treated like an adult. Suddenly, he’s thrust into a junior high environment where kids are treated like they’re irresponsible and unintelligent, teachers all apparently are undereducated or are downright mean to students, and students are absolutely horrible to each other. You know, typical high school experiences. Or, at least, that’s how they’re presented. I definitely would’ve liked to have seen at least one teacher presented as being a positive figure. Yes, reluctant readers are also usually the types of students who don’t want to see angelic teacher figures in the books they enjoy, but really? Not even one?
As Cody is trying to adjust to his new situation, he’s also beginning a friendship with one of the boys from next door, an Iraq veteran who has lost one of his arms in an explosion. They form a bond almost immediately when they both flatten themselves to the ground at the sound of a string of fireworks. They also work together to figure out what is going on when they start to notice strange goings-on in the area of their houses.
One of the best “selling” points of this book is the pacing. Things move quickly and there is a fairly high level of intrigue and suspense right from the beginning and sustained throughout the rest of the book, something which is absolutely essential for attracting and keeping the attention of reluctant readers.
Alibi Junior High is definitely a book that I would recommend to pre-teen and lower-reading-level teenage boys, with its fast pace, high-interest-low-vocab content, and the way that it relates to real-life teenagers in a creative way that extends past their own stories.