12-year-old overweight department store tie salesman Bobby Goodspeed and his best friends Skeezie (reformed school terror), Addie (tall, clever and female) and Joe (gay) have always been the outcasts at school. It’s a situation they are all pretty accustomed to, but one day rebellious Addie brings up an idea at one of their Forum meetings: they should create a new party to run in the student elections. Things do not run as smoothly as she imagines, however, as she tries to convince the popular DuShawn Carter to run for president, and they have to go up against Brittney Hobson, who has been class president three times running. Bobby also has to deal with his relationship with his father, his co-worker Mr Kellerman, and his feelings for Kelsey, a girl in his class with a crush on Joe!
I had mixed feelings about this book. I felt it had a good, strong message – it inspired a national “No Name-Calling Week” in school in the USA – and I liked that it didn’t go for the cheesy ending. I felt that Bobby was an interesting character, however, I thought that I would have liked to know more about the other members of the group and the school in general, and to see more of Bobby’s emotions, it took a long time for me to feel emotionally “hooked” by the story. I think it’s the type of story that would make a good film, being as focused as it is around one major event. However, there is a sequel, or ‘companion’, Totally Joe, from Joe’s point of view (obviously), which I am looking forward to reading at some point.
I would recommend this book for 10-14 year olds, the writing isn’t really sophisticated enough for older teens or adults, the message may seem a little forced to cynical minds.