‘Worm’ Tarnauer is an 8th grader who prefers to stay out of sight and lets his best friend, Eddie (arguably the most popular guy in school), be the leader in all things school and social life.
The one day all 8th graders look forward to is “Dead Wednesday” – a day in which all 8th graders are given the name of a teenager who died in the past year and have them wear black shirts and essentially become invisible to everyone else in school (as well as many of the local townfolk). The goal is to make the the students contemplate their own mortality. For many 8th graders, being invisible is the chance to create mayhem, knowing that the teachers and administration will turn a blind eye because to reprimand them would mean acknowledging them and defeat the idea of having them be invisible.
For Worm, it’s just another day of being invisible, but Worm didn’t count on Becca Finch. Becca was a 17 year old girl who died in a car accident. Worm experiences a Dead Wednesday unlike any other and the day, and Becca Finch, have a profound impact on Worm.
There are so many great writers writing for children and middle schoolers, but Jerry Spinelli is pretty much at the top of my list of favorites. Dead Wednesday is a shining example of why I like this writer so much.
First, there are the characters. Everyone we meet here, from Worm to Eddie, Becca Finch to Mean Monica, we all know someone just like these people. Or perhaps we are one of these people. They represent a cross-section of youth and under Spinelli’s hand our protagonist shows growth and represents the best a teen (or pre-teen) can be.
Spinelli also nicely captures middle school life. Aside from ‘Dead Wednesday,’ one of the topics of conversation among the students is a big fight between two students who absolutely hate each other. It’s going to happen after school and it’s so big Eddie and Worm think some of the teachers might even show up to watch. This is classic middle school thinking.
But what appeals to me most about this book is the surprise. Spinelli takes an ordinary boy in an ordinary school and adds in something extraordinary. I love this kind of book … where the extraordinary feels so real and the story is uplifting. This is highly recommended, not only for middle schoolers (who will discover this one their own) but for any adult who just likes a good story with good people.
Looking for a good book? Dead Wednesday is an uplifting, delightful book for readers of all ages.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Jerry Spinelli
publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
hardcover, 240 pages