This moving and witty coming-of-age story begins as Nick Gardner, who suffers from Febrile seizures that cause hallucinations, exits his house in his Christmas boxer shorts to climb a water tower, thinking it’s a large can of cherry cola. Nick’s father, who spends his days sleeping on the couch since depression set in after a heart attack and a job loss, sleeps through the entire episode. Before Nick can reach a height on the water tower that would certainly result in his death if he fell, his friend, the Scooter, convinces him to stop climbing. Nick does fall but breaks his leg, not his neck.
The Scooter, one year older than Nick, has “Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, which speeds up the aging process and is totally incurable and rare.” The two boys have been friends and neighbors all their lives, though they’ve drifted lately. Scoot is Star Wars obsessed and quotes Yoda, often joking about his disease and teasing his friend: “When nine hundred years you reach, Nick Gardner, look as good, you will not.”
During the time the boy’s drifted Scooter made friends with Jaycee Amato, a girl in his class with purple streaks in her hair who wears troll doll necklaces. She’s made a promise to the Scooter she has every intention of keeping.
When Nick meets Jaycee, whose stepfather is a reporter covering Nick’s father’s journey—walking to New York to lose weight—and learns of her friendship with and loyalty to Scoot, the three start spending time together. Scoot’s condition takes a bad turn, and Jaycee and Nick set out on a journey of their own to fulfill the promise Jaycee made to their dying friend. It involves the boy’s father and a first edition signed copy of John Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men. The inscription in the rare book reads: “True valor comes in all shapes and sizes—and often from those you’d least expect.”
The three main characters in this story are quirky, genuine, and completely lovable. The first person narrative is a voice you want to spend time with and the story moves, surprises, and is difficult to put down. This is a story about individuality, courage, friendship, first love, and about what happens when you make plans—a theme from Steinbeck’s book. Stories such as this one are why I love realistic fiction.
—Kari Baumbach, children’s literature enthusiast
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