This book was so much fun! Claudia’s twin brother, Reese, embarrassed her at school in the lunch room in front of their entire class. Claudia decides she needs to humiliate Reese the same way he humiliated her. Thus begins the war: there’s some stinky fish, an embarrassing music video, crazy haircuts and an online trouncing. The book is told from Claudia’s point of view but as a series of interviews she conducts with her brother, her friends and her babysitter. Also mixed in are photos, screenshots of online chats and text messages between her parents.
Rodkey perfectly captures that age where kids are starting to come into themselves. That age where we have first crushes, where what other people think is so important, where an embarrassing incident can either crush you or make you stronger, and the most responsibility we have is for our homework and the people we control in a video game. At the same time, he captures the mannerisms, speech and slang of this age group perfectly. Claudia and Reese could absolutely jump off the page and fit right in at my son’s school. They were authentic and funny and sounded and acted like kids without the author talking down to his audience.
The plot is funny and engaging and brought back memories of tiffs between my brothers. While they never put dead fish in each other’s bags, and online games like Meta World weren’t around yet, the idea is the same and I was somewhat nostalgic while reading. Kids will find the pranks hilarious. As a parent, the snippets of text message between the Tapper parents had me rolling. Like many parents, they want to be involved but are really rather clueless despite their best efforts.
The format of the book lends itself well to the MG reading group. The pictures and screen shots add a lot of humor but also break up the story into pieces which will keep kids interested. This book will have wide appeal – both girls and boys will find characters to identify with. It’s definitely not a “girly” book even though the account of the events is being compiled by Claudia. It will also appeal to both avid and reluctant readers. The format lends itself well to reluctant readers because the pictures and screen shots add a lot of humor and also break up the story into pieces which will keep kids interested. Stronger readers won’t be disappointed by the strong characters, great dialogue and quick pace.
I have a quick side note about age. The twins in the books are 12 years old. The book is listed on some sites as being for ages 8 and up. My son is 8 and while there’s nothing inappropriate in the book, it was a little bit above is reading level. He could read it but some of the nuance and humor was lost on him. Some very mature 8 year old readers may appreciate this more than my son. He enjoyed it but not, I suspect, as much as slightly older kids will.
Overall, I really loved this book. I was thoroughly entertained. It was funny and made me a little bit nostalgic. There are some sweet moments at the end between Claudia and Reese that show how siblings can love each other even when they’re so different and even after they make mistakes. There are also some great messages here. Cyberbullying is addressed without preaching or beating you over the head. There are also nice lessons about how doing something not-so-nice can sometimes backfire, and about how, despite it all, the bond between siblings can be an amazing thing.