School is hard and it’s even harder when you realize you can’t see the board anymore. Rex notices pretty quickly that returning to school after a busy summer break is going to be a lot different than it was the year before. Some big changes happened that he isn’t mentally or emotionally ready for.
The story follows Rex through the challenges of navigating grade school. He wants to make friends and fit in, but there are a lot of tough kids that certainly give him a hard time. Bullying is a major theme throughout this graphic novel. In addition to this, Rex faces a lot of problems at home, too. His mother is remarried and his biological father is mostly out of the picture. There are frequent discussions and conflicts surrounding money, especially when Rex’s glasses are accidentally broken during gym class. How will they afford to replace them and where will the money come from? Will Rex come to terms with the “new” him by the end of the school year?
This book has a lot of inclusive language and really emphasizes that differences should be celebrated. For example, at Rex’s appointment, the mom is shamed by the optometrist for asking how bad her son’s eyesight is, instead the mother is told that her son simply needs corrective lenses to improve his vision. These slight changes in language put a more positive spin on this situation that Rex clearly finds to be very stressful.
Overall, this realistic fiction work is great in that it features a male protagonist. I more frequently see female protagonists in middle school level graphic novels in this genre. There is humor sprinkled throughout that is actually funny, so I’m sure middle schoolers will enjoy the jokes. However, the story is a little bit slow paced, not as attention grabbing as I would have hoped, and perhaps not as relatable as the author is likely striving for. Nowadays, many middle schoolers wear corrective lenses. It’s quite common, even fashionable. I’ve been around this age group for years and years now and you really don’t see so much of the “four eyes” type mockery that was frequently spewed out decades before.
The artwork is very creative. I love that the author makes images in the panels all blurry when the main character has his glasses off. It’s an effective special effect that really emphasizes the world that this boy is living in. Students will surely love this drawing style and the large variety of page layouts that the illustrator has taken the time to include.
In conclusion, this book would be a nice, quick read for any middle schooler. The story emphasizes inclusivity and teaches about bullying and dealing with being in a low socioeconomic status family. It’s not the most exciting pace and students may find the extreme reaction to Rex’s glasses to be just that, too extreme. In this story, Rex is one of the only students that has corrective lenses. However, I don’t know that this reflects the true reality of how many children nowadays wear some form of glasses or contacts, even just for fashion.
By Rex Ogle
Art by Dave Valeza
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)