This coming-of-age book by Beth Evangelista is published by Walker & Company and is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
George R. Clark, an eighth-grader, is the main character and narrator of this story. He is mentally and academically gifted, but his arrogance and self-centeredness offend nearly everyone except his best friend, Anita, and a few teachers. George is fairly oblivious to how little people like him, though he clearly recognizes that some of the football players, called the Bruise Brothers, have it out for him. His former best friend, Sam Toselli, is their leader. George embarrassed Sam at a school science fair, which made Sam hostile toward George.
George and Anita ride a bus to Cape Rose, the location of the class campout. At camp, the Bruise Brothers surprise George by being nice to him. They even invite him to play in a football game. George neglects Anita to spend time with his new friends. He doesn't want to pass up a chance to impress Allison Picone, the love of his life since first grade.
That night, the Bruise Brothers include George in their secret plan to humiliate the music teacher, Mr. Zimmerman (Mr. Z), who has been assigned to their cabin. They arrange to douse Mr. Z with shaving cream while he sleeps. George has a bottle of mustard. He takes his spot in the dark, and on cue, squirts the entire bottle over Mr. Z's head and sheets. Suddenly, the light comes on, and George finds himself standing alone with Mr. Z. The Bruise Brothers are nowhere to be seen.
Because of the mustard incident, George is at the mercy of Mr. Z for the rest of his time at camp. First, George is told to clean the bathrooms. Then Mr. Z demands that George help him build the sets for the musical production planned for the last night of camp. Though he grumbles about doing the work, George realizes that being near Mr. Z every minute of the day keeps him safe from Sam and his gang.
The only thing threatening to derail George's plan to stay by Mr. Z's side is Hurricane Judith, a storm bearing down on the Cape. The authorities decide to evacuate the camp the following morning.
The campers awake to strong winds and rain. While waiting for the buses to pick them up, they eat a quick breakfast. In the parking lot, George realizes he has left his backpack in the cabin and returns to retrieve it, only to be ambushed by the Bruise Brothers, who take his glasses from him. George flees from them and ends up in the woods. He quickly becomes lost, but eventually makes it to the beach and manages to enter the lighthouse. Shortly after, the hurricane tears the door off the lighthouse, and a surge of water knocks George into the staircase where he passes out.
George wakes up the next morning to calmer weather and hears someone yelling for help. The beach has been washed away and the area is flooded, so George has to swim to leave the lighthouse. He goes to an administrative building where he finds Sam pinned beneath a large pile of furniture and rubble. (The book doesn't say how Sam became trapped or why he was in the building. Perhaps he was seeking shelter after the buses left without him and George.) While rescuing Sam, George apologizes for embarrassing him at the school science fair.
George saves Sam's life and realizes that he has been self-absorbed, pompous and inconsiderate. He has been a terrible friend to Anita and Sam, an ungrateful son to his parents and a know-it-all in school. It took a near-death experience at the lighthouse for George to realize the error of his ways, but he vows to be a better friend, son, student and person.
George appears to be a Christian, though it is never overtly mentioned. He prays to God several times, in particular when his life is threatened by the hurricane. Stuck in the lighthouse with a bloody gash on his head, George promises God that if He lets him survive, he will be considerate to everyone, including Anita, and help his fellow man whenever he's able. George lives through the ordeal and doesn't forget his promise.
Other Belief Systems
The words h---, d--n and friggin' are uttered several times, mostly by George. The word a-- is also used. A character uses an obscene gesture, and George talks about how he stopped talking back to his father because it really p-ssed his father.
George receives a gash on his head when the hurricane surge knocks him into the lighthouse staircase. His head and shirt are bloodied.
The Bruise Brothers chase George in the woods and mistake Anita, who has a coat just like George's, for their nemesis. They jump on Anita and start beating her until they realize she's not George. Anita suffers a grossly swollen black eye.
Sam breaks his leg after being crushed by office furniture during the hurricane.
George lures a couple of the Bruise Brothers into a bunker by falsely claiming there are 'nudie' magazines in the back of the room. George implies that he has pictures of women in revealing attire on the inside of his closet door.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Do you know people who are as smart as George?
- Which character traits does George lack, which prevents him from realizing no one likes him?
- Why does everyone dislike him?
- What is a character quality you might lack?
How could you grow in this area?
Why does even his best friend, Anita, stop liking George?
- What does George conclude about Anita?
- How does he vow to treat her in the future?
- Have you ever treated a friend poorly?
What helped you stop this behavior?
George doesn't have a lot of respect for his teachers.
- What causes him to realize that he likes Mr. Zimmerman and even respects him?
- How have you misjudged an adult?
- Did this person turn out to be better or worse than your first impression?
How did you find this out?
What did George do at a science fair to embarrass Sam?
- What makes George realize how Sam must have felt?
- What does Sam do to get back at George?
- What does George do to rebuild his relationship with Sam?
- Why is asking for forgiveness a good first step?
- What might be George's next step?
What would you do in his place?
What conclusion does George come to about his parents by the end of the story?
- Do you think your opinion about us [your parents] might change as you grow older? Explain.
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Readability Age Range
10 and up
Walker & Company