The Misfits by James Howe

the misfitsReading level: 6.1
Lexile: 960
Series: The Misfits book 1
Genre: Realistic fiction, LGBT
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby — they’ve been friends forever. They laugh together, have lunch together, and get together once a week at the Candy Kitchen to eat ice cream and talk about important issues. Life isn’t always fair, but at least they have each other — and all they really want to do is survive the seventh grade.

That turns out to be more of a challenge than any of them had anticipated. Starting with Addie’s refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance and her insistence on creating a new political party to run for student council, the Gang of Five is in for the ride of their lives. Along the way they will learn about politics and popularity, love and loss, and what it means to be a misfit. After years of getting by, they are given the chance to stand up and be seen — not as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to, but as the full, complicated human beings they are just beginning to discover they truly are.

The Misfits is a lot of fun. I particularly liked the voices of Addie and Joe, but all the main characters were pretty hilarious throughout the entire story. Not only was it funny, but it included lots of important and serious topics written at the middle-school level.

First of all, we learn how people deal with the death of loved ones, how people heal, and how the pain  never really goes away. Anyone who has experienced loss can relate.

Another topic is equality and fairness, as shown by Addie’s struggle to form a third party in the school elections and her opposition to saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

Joe brings to light issues that gay teens and young adults face, from name calling to complicated crushes and beyond.

Addie shows us unintentional racism by her wanting DuShawn (an African American) to be president of the party because he’s a visible minority, although she won’t admit that his skin color is her main reason for targeting him. DuShawn calls out her stereotyping (that all Black people experience racism, bullying, etc.), and Addie struggles to believe what DuShawn says, perhaps because she has a fixed idea of how society functions and who struggles the most.

And, of course, name-calling is a big part of The Misfits. The middle school I interned at had a no name-calling week where students pledged to not call people names, not just for one week, but for always. It’s important for students to take a moment to think about how the things they say can have an impact on one another.

In essence, this book deals with how people treat and judge one another. I don’t think The Misfits is a terrific piece of literature, but I think it’s important for students to read and discuss, making it a contender for a class read-along in middle school.

Apparently there is a whole series?! The Misfits ends in a way that could be the end without continuing into a series, so there aren’t any cliffhangers or anything. It was intriguing enough that I want to read the others, though.

The lexile is apparently pretty high (I listened to the audiobook, which is harder for me to gauge), but it seems basically ELL-friendly if they’re reading at about the 6th grade level. It’s geared more towards middle school since the characters are in middle school themselves, but I think the concepts are deep enough to be enjoyed and discussed with high schoolers too.

The Misfits is my eleventh book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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